Europe's newest international soccer tournament started Thursday with a whimper rather than a bang.
Germany and France headlined the opening night of the UEFA Nations League — the 2014 world champion against this year's winner — but the upshot was a 0-0 draw most memorable for France goalkeeper Alphonse Areola's saves.
Germany coach Joachim Loew said the Nations League wasn't a big enough stage for his team to redeem itself after crashing out of the World Cup in the group stage.
"It would be naive to think that we could put a World Cup like that behind us with one game," he said. "In the end, we can only rehabilitate ourselves at a major tournament."
France took a relaxed approach compared to the high-intensity style of its victorious World Cup campaign, though Germany showed more of a competitive edge to put debutant Areola's goal under siege in the final half-hour.
Germany forward Leroy Sane, controversially omitted from the World Cup squad, was back in the team but limited to a role as an 83rd-minute substitute.
On a mixed opening night for the new competition, the Wales team coached by Ryan Giggs swept past Ireland 4-1, while Ukraine beat the Czech Republic 2-1 after a delay for a floodlight failure.
The Nations League was meant to replace friendlies with more meaningful games, but Croatia and Portugal showed that the friendly format still has some mileage.
In its first game since losing the World Cup final to France, Croatia drew 1-1 with European champion Portugal in a game scheduled head-to-head with Germany and France's Nations League opener.
Ivan Perisic put Croatia ahead with a fierce shot in the 18th minute before Portugal defender Pepe responded with a header in the 32nd.
After missing out on a World Cup spot, the Netherlands showed grit in Thursday's friendly against Peru, coming back from a goal down to win 2-1 as veteran midfielder Wesley Sneijder marked his 134th and last international game.
WALES ON FORM
In the second tier of the Nations League, Wales needed just six minutes to score in its first competitive game under Giggs, who was appointed in January to succeed Chris Coleman.
Tom Lawrence blasted the ball past goalkeeper Darren Randolph to get Wales started, before Gareth Bale made it 2-0 with a curling shot. Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts added further goals as the Welsh gained a measure of revenge over Ireland, whose 1-0 win last year ended their World Cup qualifying hopes.
In Thursday's other League B fixture, Oleksandr Zinchenko's stoppage-time goal gave Ukraine the win over the Czechs. The 21-year-old Manchester City midfielder is a key figure in Ukraine's attempt to rebuild its squad after missing out on the World Cup.
HOW DOES THE NATIONS LEAGUE WORK?
UEFA has had a tough time explaining why Europe needed its new competition, or how it works.
It's a hybrid between a traditional tournament — stretched out over a whole season — and a European Championship qualifier.
There's a group stage, after which the top-tier winners will play a "final four"-style playoff to be overall Nations League champion. Group winners from all four divisions can earn places in qualifying playoffs in 2020, with a European Championship spot on the line.
There will still be a traditional qualifying competition for the European Championship, starting next year. FIFA hopes there will eventually be Nations Leagues worldwide feeding into a global competition.
OUTSIDERS AIM FOR 2020
For many of Europe's lower-ranked countries, the Nations League is likely to be their best shot of qualifying for the European Championship, since at least one team from each tier is guaranteed a place.
League C's early front-runners include Norway, which hasn't reached a major tournament since 2000 and beat Cyprus 2-0. Bulgaria, last seen at the European Championship in 2004, won 2-1 against Slovenia.
In the lowest level, League D, Georgia started strongly Thursday with a 2-0 win over Kazakhstan. The 19-year-old Georgian midfielder Giorgi Chakvetadze scored the first-ever goal in the Nations League with a powerful shot from the edge of the box.
Andorra earned a rare point in a competitive game by drawing 0-0 away to Latvia, the only one of League D's 16 teams ever to have played a major tournament.
GIBRALTAR AT HOME
Gibraltar, the smallest member of UEFA, played its first-ever competitive game on home soil, losing 2-0 to Macedonia in League D.
Gibraltar joined UEFA in 2013 but had to play all its home qualifying games for the 2016 European Championship and 2018 World Cup at a venue in Portugal because its own stadium wasn't considered up to the required standard.
After some upgrades, Gibraltar is now playing at its 2,000-capacity Victoria Stadium for the Nations League. Local media reported the game against Macedonia was sold out.
Dhaka, Sep 7 (UNB) - Bangladesh will need a draw against visiting Nepal on Saturday’s match to reach the semifinal in the seven-nation SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018.
The must-win game for Nepal’s semifinal berth will begin at 7 pm at Bangabandhu National Stadium.
Bangladesh are now atop the four-team Group ‘A’ collecting all-win six points from two outings, staring their campaign with a 2-0 win against already-eliminated side Bhutan before getting a 1-0 goal victory against Pakistan in the second game.
Nepal started their journey with a 1-2 defeat against Pakistan in the tournament opener before stunned Bhutan by 4-0 goals to keep their hope for last four berth alive and to hold the second slot by virtue of goal difference.
In another match of Saturday, if Pakistan is beaten by Bhutan, Bangladesh will reach semifinals, even if suffer a loss against Nepal.
If Pakistan can manage a win against Bhutan, Bangladesh will need at least a draw against Nepal to confirm its last-four berth.
Ahead of the match day, Bangladesh boys’ had a two hours practice session at Birshrestha Shaheed Sepoy Mohammad Mostafa Kamal Stadium in Kamlapur in the afternoon.
In the last three editions, Bangladesh made their exit from the group stage. The host side had a successful campaign in the SAFF Championship 2003 with a 1(5)-1(3) win in a penalty shootout against the Maldives in the final at Bangabandhu National Stadium.
Bangladesh are hosting the event for the third time after 2003 and 2009, since its inception in 1993.
Points table: (Group A)
Team Matches Position GF GA GD Points
Bangladesh 2 1 3 0 +3 6
Nepal 2 2 5 1 +4 3
Pakistan 2 3 2 1 +1 3
Bhutan 2 4 0 6 -6 0
Bangladesh squad: Ashraful Islam Rana, Shahidul Alam Sohel, Anisur Rahman, Topu Barman, Nasiruddin Chowdhury, Bishwanath Ghosh, Tutul Hossain Badsha, Waly Faisal, Susanta Tripura, Masuk Miah Zony, Mamunul Islam Mamun, Emon Mahmud Babu, Faisalo Mahmud, Sohel Rana, Biplu Ahmed, Atiqul Islam Fahad, Jamal Bhuiyan, Shahkawat Hossain Rony, Mahbubur Rahman Sufil and Saaduddin.
Jhenaidah, Sept 6 (UNB) - Jhenaidah Pourashava Eleven beat touring Kalyani Pourashava team of Nadia district of India by 1-0 goal in a friendly U-18 football match at the local Bir Shreshta Hamidur Rahman Stadium on Thursday.
The winners scored the match decider in the 2nd half from a penalty.
Deputy Commissioner of Jehnaidah Saroj Kumar Nath distributed the trophies as the chief guest.
Mayor of the Jhenaidah Pourashava Saidul Karim Mintu, Additional Police Super Milu Miah Biswas along with Coordinator of the visiting team Milon Ghosh and Coach Devabrata Biswas were also present at the match witnessed by several thousand local soccer fans.
Dhaka, Sep 6 (UNB) – Bangladesh have almost assured a semifinal berth in the seven-nation SAFF Suzuki Cup with a 1-0 goal victory against Pakistan in a hard-fought Group A match under floodlight and amid huge cheers from some 18,000 crowd at Bangabandhu National Stadium on Thursday.
Veteran defender Topu Barman scored the match winner for Bangladesh by a close range cool header that kissed the Pakistani net through the right corner.
Photo: Bayazid Akter/UNB
With the feat, Bangladesh topped the group list with all-win record securing full six points from two matches after making a 2-0 win over Bhutan, which have already been eliminated from the meet.
Despite the defeat, Pakistan also remained in the race for the semifinal with three points from two matches with a 2-1 win over Nepal in the tournament opener.
Pakistan have a chance to reach the semifinals if they could manage a win against Bhutan and Bangladesh either beat Nepal or draw in their next group matches, both on Saturday (September 8).
In the day’s match, Pakistan defended almost all the time with quick counterattack strategy while Bangladesh continued the forceful game by keeping 61.1 percent ball position.
Photo: Bayazid Akter/UNB
Bangladesh missed some chances in the second half. In the 69th minute, Masuk Miah Zoni took a header from the centre of the box off a Waly Faisal cross but went high and wide to the right post.
Forward Biplu Ahmed took a right-footed shot from outside the box, but the ball went straight to the grip of the goalie in the 58th minute.
Pakistan forward Muhammad Ali took a right-footed shot from the centre of the box only to go over edging the top right corner of the crosspiece in the 55th minute.
Pakistan captain Saddam Hussain missed a chance in the 46th minute as his right-footed shot from outside the box went high and wide to the right.
Earlier in the first half, Bangladesh started to play a forceful game after 10 minutes and made an attempt in the 29th minute as forward Saad Uddin’s right-footed long shot from the left flank went high and wide to the left off a Topu Barman pass.
The hosts continued pressing game and missed two chances as midfielder Masuk Miah Zoni’s right-footed shot from outside the box was blocked by Pakistani defence in the 40th minute before forward Mahbubur Rahman’s right-footed shot from more than 35 yards missed the left in the 42nd minute.
Photo: Bayazid Akter/UNB
Pakistan created a couple of quick counterattacks in between 20-30 minutes, but Bangladesh defenders foiled all their efforts.
Bangladesh goalie Sahidul Alam saved the post in the 9th minute as he foiled Pakistani forward Muhammad Ali’s header from inside the box, fisting the ball over the crosspiece.
Bangladesh brought two changes in the playing eleven as Shakhawat Hossain Rony and Emon Mahmud came in replacing injured Mahbubur Rahman and Biplu Ahmed respectively.
Pakistan also brought two changes in their playing eleven as Saadullah Khan and Faheem Ahmed replaced injured Mehmood Khan and Muhammad Adil respectively.
Masuk Miah Zoni fouled Pakistani forward Mehmood Khan in the 40th minute and got a yellow card.
Topu Barman was shown a yellow card for excessive celebration pulling off the jersey after scoring the match winning goal.
Pakistan defender Mohsin Ali was shown the yellow card as he committed foul with defender Bishwnath Ghosh.
Points table after each sides playing out two matches:
Team Match Win Loss GF GA GD Points
Bangladesh 2 2 0 3 0 +3 6
Nepal 2 1 1 5 2 +3 3
Pakistan 2 1 1 2 1 +1 3
Bhutan 2 0 0 0 6 -6 0
Dhaka, Sept 6 (UNB) – Touring Sri Lanka Air Force team beat Bangladesh Air Force team by 3-1 sets in a friendly volleyball match at the volleyball ground of BAF Base Bangabandhu on Thursday.
Air Officer Commanding of BAF Base Bangabandhu Air Vice Marshal M Shafiqul Alam witnessed the match as the chief guest and later he distributed prizes among the teams.
Senior officers, airmen and other members of Bangladesh Air Force were present on the occasion.
Sri Lanka Air Force volleyball team arrived here on September 3 in a tour aimed at strengthening the existing friendly relationship between BAF and SLAF.