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Big-match debrief: The first Nations League Finals, and what they meant to England

A new meaning

How was that for you? Most fans in Portugal — if we exclude the minority of England followers causing trouble — appeared to buy into the whole Nations League idea but I suppose that is easy when you are one of the four teams to make the finals and have a nice trip to the sun to enjoy. Gareth Southgate was certainly a believer in the tournament, saying as much upon his side’s arrival in Guimaraes. It is a new addition to the calendar and not without its faults, but surely it is better than meaningless friendlies. The win over Spain in Seville last year was worth the bother alone. European champions Portugal, the hosts, claimed a second piece of silverware in three years — a record no one would turn down.

Trent bridges the gap

There were inevitably winners and losers in the England shirt. It is not hard to spot who may be the fall guy from the finals; John Stones was woeful against Holland and lost his place on Sunday. Trent Alexander-Arnold (pictured), fresh from winning the Champions League, was brilliant against Switzerland, his Liverpool team-mate Joe Gomez steady in the centre of defence. Jordan Pickford becomes a bit of a cult hero as the first England goalkeeper to take, and score, a penalty in a shoot-out in a competitive match. Jesse Lingard and Callum Wilson are left to think about what might have been had it not been for pesky VAR. At the back, the team remain too easily exposed and in midfield, they still need a Luka Modric/Frenkie de Jong type.

The wrong kind of fans

Once again we come away from the continent ashamed of some sections of England’s support. Clearly it is a minority who follow the team that cause anti-social havoc but what is also clear is far too few took notice of the Football Association’s pre-tournament advice about respecting their hosts. You get the feeling places like Guimaraes and Porto breathe a sigh of relief when England leave. Southgate is asked about fans’ behaviour on a regular basis and everyone is left just that bit more exasperated by the experience.