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  • Writer's pictureTone Rasmussen

Spain Claims First Nations League Trophy

The first-ever UEFA Women's Nations League campaign wrapped up this week with Spain being crowned the winner after beating France 2-0. Germany and the Netherlands faced off in the important third place match with Germany securing the last Olympics spot.

 

Nations League was introduced this year to implement more structure to Olympics qualifiers and create opportunities for more quality games. For nations building their national teams, this is an opportunity to play against teams at a high level.


Teams in League A had the opportunity to qualify for the Olympics by winning their group and progressing to the knockout rounds. Nations League has a tier system going from League A to League C where countries are put into four groups of four teams. The last in the group gets relegated and the third-place team must face off in a two-leg relegation qualifier against the second place team in the group below.


France advance to their first major final

Spain continued their incredible form after only dropping one game against Italy in the group stage matches. They faced off against the Netherlands in the semifinal game and won with a convincing 3-0, with goals coming from Jenni Hermoso, Aitana Bonmati, and Ona Battle. Dutch goalkeeper Daphne Van Domselaar was what kept the Netherlands in the game for a while, but there was never any doubt of who was going to come out on top, with Spain firing on all cylinders from start to finish.


Vivianne Miedema started for the Dutch despite having some “knee irritation” and was subbed off at halftime. Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall confirmed on Friday that the Dutch international will have to undergo minor surgery and will be out for several weeks. Arsenal teammate Victoria Pelova also had to withdraw from the squad after picking up an injury in a game against Manchester United the week before. Both trained separately when arriving to camp, and Pelova was not included in the squad against Spain. The Dutch were also missing Jill Roord who tore her ACL earlier this year and will be out for several months.


 

In the other semifinal, France and Germany faced off. France had already qualified for the Olympics as the host country. This game was close, but France showed their excellence and were up 2-0 at halftime thanks to a half-volley from the edge of the box from Kadidiatou Diani and a first national team goal for Sakina Karchaoui. Karchaoui buried penalty after Grace Geoyoro was brought down in the box.


Germany was close to pulling one back on several occasions in the first half, but both Alexandra Popp and Klara Bühl's efforts went wide of the net. Giulia Gwinn scored for Germany after converting her penalty kick just eight minutes before full time, but in the end, it was France who advanced to their first major final and beat Germany for the first time in a competitive match.

 


 Spain on top of the world

Just 32 minutes into the final against France, Spain broke the deadlock when Olga Carmona sent a cross right into the box where Bonmati stood unmarked, and volleyed the ball past Pauline Peyraud-Magnin. Spain held most of the possession in the first half and dictated the pace of the game. France came closer in the second half and showed glimpses of how good they can be, but pressure from the Spanish midfield continually disrupted France's rhythm.


French Head Coach Hervé Renard had nothing but praise for the Spanish team after the defeat.


“They’ll be the team to beat at the Olympics," Renard said in an interview after the match. "They commit very few technical errors. The technical level is exceptional”.




 

Germany secure last bid to Paris

Because France had already qualified for the Olympics as the host country, the third place match would decide who would get the last bid to the tournament. Germany secured the last spot after defeating The Netherlands 2-0. This was a game between two teams who some say might have underperformed at the World Cup this past summer.

 

Both teams had several opportunities to pull ahead in the match, but failed to capitalize. Lineth Beerensteyn was the focal point of the Dutch attack but was unable to get one in the net. Neither team was able to break the deadlock in the first half, but midway through the second half, the German offense began to find their flow. Bühl placed Germany in front in the 65th minute and later assisted Bayern Munich teammate Lea Schuller to secure the win and the Olympic spot for Germany.


 

Norway, Belgium, Sweden, Ukraine, and Slovakia all breezed through the two-legged relegation matches and will continue to play in League A and B for the European Qualifiers phase. Iceland also managed to stay up despite having closer calls against Serbia coming from behind to win the game. Northern Ireland also had a bit of a scare beating Montenegro 3-1 on aggerate after drawing 1-1 in the last game.



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