It’s an international break. That means international games! It used to mean pointless friendlies that existed mostly to make club team fans worry a lot about whether their team’s international representatives would come through two games uninjured without putting too much work in.
Now, though, the wise minds at UEFA have invented the Nations League, a bewilderingly complex “league” structure that theoretically gives these pointless friendlies a point, although a large part of the point is still “please don’t get injured”. But progressing through the Nations League, however that ends up working (seriously, it’s confusing as hell and I’m not even gonna try to explain it, so here’s where someone tries to sort it out, with more success than I would have had), is now a thing too, so hooray for that.
Maybe this is me being an old man yelling at a cloud, but I just can’t get into the concept that these friendlies mean anything now. As I’ve said before, if everything is given meaning, nothing is ultimately that meaningful - as much as I disdain friendlies, I recognize that they do serve a purpose in giving young players a shot and getting teams ready for the big tournaments and whatnot.
But for me, if you take something like a friendly and wrap it in a big tournament framework, that doesn’t automatically make it better or more interesting. You’re just imbuing it with a sheen of forced grandeur (it’s a tournament, not just a game!) in order to make it mean something it ultimately doesn’t need to mean.
But, that said, it’s soccer to watch, and in the absence of Arsenal, that’s something, I suppose. There are quite a few Arsenal players in action this weekend, starting with Aaron Ramsey’s Wales team today, who are faced with a pretty big obstacle, according to Arsenal dot com:
Aaron Ramsey has been called up by Ryan Giggs for Wales’ international friendly against Thursday, October 11
I mean, for all I said above about giving friendlies an artificial level of meaning, Wales taking on an entire calendar day is really quite the ambitious move for a side that didn’t make the World Cup this year, but I’m very much here for the hubris of it. I just wonder what the 11th of October did to Wales - why not any other Thursday?
Anyway, if you want to watch these games, the best place to get info for how to do so is on livesoccer.tv - it looks like a lot of them are on ESPN+. I’ll take this opportunity again to plug that service - I don’t work for them but I will say that of all the streaming services, it seems to be the most useful, because it’s $5 a month and it has a ton of content. MLS, internationals, other sports, etc - it’s definitely worth checking out.
What’s your interest level in the Nations League? Will you be watching?