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Nations League starts in drab style with Germany-France draw

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08th-Sep-2018       
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Agency :
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 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.
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.

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