Olivier Giroud‘s thumping volley earned world champions France a 2-1 Nations League win over the Netherlands in Paris.
The Chelsea striker, who failed to score during the World Cup in Russia, met Benjamin Mendy’s left-wing cross with a fierce first-time finish in the 75th-minute.
Jasper Cillessen in the Holland goal got a hand to the shot, but could not keep it out as Didier Deschamps’ men won for the first time in Group A1.
Kylian Mbappe, one of the stars of the World Cup triumph, had set France on their way after 14 minutes, tapping home at the far post from a Blaise Matuidi cross after Quincy Promes’ horribly misplaced header had sent the Juventus man clear.
But Holland stunned the home fans in the 67th minute when, moments after Georginio Wijnaldum dragged a glorious chance wide, Ryan Babel poked home a pin-point low cross.
Wales were brought back down to earth following their 4-1 thrashing of the Republic of Ireland as Denmark, back at full strength, cruised to a 2-0 win in Aarhus.
Christian Eriksen, one of the senior players to return to the squad following the resolution of the players’ image rights row, which had led to a team of lower-league and futsal players taking to the field in the 3-0 friendly defeat to Slovakia on Wednesday, was on target twice in the Group B4 clash.
He produced a smart low finish off the side of a post in the 32nd minute and sealed the victory with a 63rd-minute penalty after Ethan Ampadu was harshly adjudged to have handled Viktor Fischer’s cross.
Ukraine earned a 1-0 win at home to Slovakia in Group B1 thanks to an 80th-minute penalty from West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko.
In Group D1, Georgia also struck late as a 77th-minute penalty from Tornike Okriashvili finally broke Latvia’s resistance to earn a 1-0 win for the hosts.
Bulgaria were also 1-0 winners at home, Radoslav Vasilev’s second-half goal seeing off 10-man Norway, who lost Haavard Nordtveit to a second yellow card in the 88th minute of the Group C3 match.
In the same group, Petar Stojanovic’s own goal in the 89th minute earned Cyprus a 2-1 home win over Slovenia.
Robert Beric had put the visitors in front before Pieros Sotiriou levelled.
Ezgjan Alioski with a penalty and Goran Pandev were on target in a 2-0 Group D4 win for Macedonia over Armenia.
In the same group, Liechtenstein won 2-0 at home to Gibraltar thanks to goals from Dennis Salanovic and Sandro Wieser.
Al Jazira Sports and Culture Club (JSCC) has a new CEO.
Nick Garcia has been appointed as Group Chief Executive Officer, overseeing all club activities.
Nick has over 20 years of global and local experience in sport. He spent five years working in Abu Dhabi from 2008-2012, building one of the region’s leading sports marketing agencies, CSM Middle East. In 2012, Nick relocated home to the UK, where he took a leadership position at Manchester City FC, helping to devise and execute the group commercial strategy through it’s transformation to City Football Group.
Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Vice Chairman of the AJSC Board and Chairman of the Executive Committee said: “On behalf of the Al Jazira Sports and Culture Club Board I would like to thank His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region, Honorary Chairman and Chairman of the JSCC Honorary Board as well as His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, Vice Chairman of the JSCC Honorary Board and Chairman of the JSCC Board of Directors for their continued guidance and support for the Club. I would also like to thank the members of the JSCC Board of Directors and the executive management team for their hard work in developing the club over recent months. I welcome Nick to the Club and wish him the best of luck in his new mandate.”
He added: “Our ability to achieve the strategic goals for the Al Jazira Club will depend largely on supporting our teams in their aspirations to achieve additional successes and championships. We will continue to instill the spirit of operational excellence, positivity, diligence, perseverance and teamwork to ensure that the Al Jazira Club continues to be the pride of Abu Dhabi.”
On his part Nick explained: “I am delighted to take up the position of Group Chief Executive Officer of JSCC in my second home, Abu Dhabi. The great ambitions of the JSCC board for the future of the club and its commitment to realizing these aspirations have been instrumental in my decision to join team Al Jazira, which has the potential to become a best in class organisation both on and off the field of play. ”
Nick highlighted that the next phase of the club will focus on improving operational efficiencies, ensuring a sustainable financial position, smart investments, increasing the Club’s revenues across its businesses as well as enhancing the spirit of competitiveness and strengthening the club’s overall brand. He emphasised that achieving these goals will require hard work, patience, proper planning, perseverance and the diligence of all team members.
The Three Lions injected hope, excitement and enthusiasm into the nation over the summer, with recent tournament failings made up for in a splendid run to the World Cup semi-finals.
Those weeks in Russia will live long in the memory, but even during the tournament Southgate regularly warned about the work still needed – and Saturday was a stark illustration of that.
Spain may have bowed out in the World Cup last 16 but showed the benefits of a long-established identity and kind of creativity sorely lacking in England’s midfield.
The 2-1 Wembley defeat was an inauspicious start to the Nations League and underlined the distance that needs making up to the world’s best.
Asked if England can close the gap before the next European Championships, Southgate said: “Very difficult to say. I think we’ve got some players who can and have shown tonight they can perform at that level, and there’s some that are still a work in progress.
“We have got 19 matches, it’s not very long, but, in my opinion, we have got the best group of players in the country here.
“We have got some others who might come back from injury and maybe coming through from the junior ranks.
“But I think we have got to keep faith in the way we’re trying to play, otherwise we go back to what we did historically and there’s no way I believe we’ll ever be a top team if we do that.
“So, we are going to be brave enough to stick to our principles, and just get better at what we’re doing and identify how we improve.
“But that is not going to be an easy task because you can see the level of the top teams.
“I said right across the summer, we’re under no illusions about that but also we’re prepared for that challenge.”
Saul Niguez and Rodrigo did the damage on Saturday evening, when Marcus Rashford had opened the scoring.
Substitute Danny Welbeck saw a stoppage-time leveller wrongly ruled out, meaning England head into Tuesday’s friendly against Switzerland reeling from three successive defeats in all competitions for the first time since 1988.
A real privilege to meet courageous Ben and an incredibly proud moment to receive the World Cup golden boot. All focus now on the bigger, team prize in 2020. 🦁🦁🦁 #ThreeLions #England pic.twitter.com/OfIWnkCMok— Harry Kane (@HKane) 9 September 2018
Southgate plans to rotate his side at the King Power Stadium in Leicester and intends to bring in reinforcements from the Under-21s squad.
The earlier withdrawal from the squad of Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling leaves the attacking areas short, while a question mark remains over Rashford.
Luke Shaw left the field on a stretcher against Spain after a heavy fall but said he was “doing fine”.
“We need to asses over the weekend, but I think it’s likely we’ll need to call some players in,” Southgate said.
“We’ll probably look to do that from the Under-21s, but we just need to see positionally where we stand on Sunday morning.
“Marcus was just feeling something. So, again, he’s one we’ll assess, and we’ll have a better idea in the morning.”