By 90Min
October 16, 2018

Well, well, well. It seems that after 25 millions years, we might have had an international break that was actually worth disrupting the domestic league action for.

For as long as we can all remember, pointless international action has consumed our lives in September and October, needlessly interrupting any momentum generated in the Premier League, Serie A and so on - much to the chagrin of basically everybody in the whole wide world.

But now, with the inception of the Nations League, we appear to have a competition that makes international football exciting again outside the hullabaloo of major international tournaments. A concept designed by Einstein, implemented by goodness knows who and understood by....well, nobody, is actually proving to be entertaining. It works, we love it and we want some more of it.

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Perhaps the overexcitement stems from England unexpectedly overcoming Spain in Seville, but come on, have we really seen international football mean this much outside of the World Cup or the Euros? The Three Lions' 5-1 demolition job on Germany 17 years ago was quite possibly the last time that excitement levels peaked as high as they did last night.

But excited we are again - England were 3-0 up in Spain last night after all, playing some sumptuous, free flowing football in the process. What's even better is that it actually means something, rather than this fixture being contested in another meaningless experimental 'friendly'. 

We now have a nice shiny trophy to play for, and with no offence intended, we're not rocking up to midweek games against Lithuania and Luxembourg with as much excitement as a Year 11 student turning up to his Physics GCSE exam.

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On the field, the nature of the performance was also something to behold as an England supporter. Gareth Southgate's charges played without fear, despite Spain boasting an incredible 15-year unbeaten record at home in competitive matches. Just days after holding Croatia at home in a rather eerie spectacle played in front of billy no mates (a game they should probably have won), the Three Lions romped into a three goal lead against La Furia Roja, stunning even the most devote England supporter. A three goal lead, away to Spain.

The most impressive thing about that opening 45 minute display was England's confidence in what they were doing, as well as the concise preparation that they had clearly undertaken prior to kick-off.

Southgate's sharp tactical mind has seen England flip-flop between different tactical systems, but always for good reason. Last night, he set the team up to play a 4-3-3 high intensity press, in stark contrast to the system implemented against Croatia. And high intensity was exactly what he got. The much maligned Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford led by example up top, never allowing the Spaniards time to settle on the ball. Ably supported by Harry Winks and the re-emerging Ross Barkley, the Three Lions midfield were intent on closing down at every opportunity, with their performance inspired by a fired-up Eric Dier.

Backed up by clean, crisp and incisive football whilst in possession, England looked majestic at times. Would we have seen such an amped up and all action performance if it weren't a competitive fixture you wonder? Unlikely. The atmosphere inside the stadium told you that there was more than pride on the line, and that notion resonated in the way England played. 

Spain, shellshocked by their first half schooling, notably improved after the break and put Southgate's side under sustained pressure towards the end of the game, giving us high octane football with plenty of passion and fire in the belly. Finally, what we've all been craving from these international breaks - a bit of oomph and desire.

The positives don't stop there though. The tournament as a whole crosses over with the qualifying process for the 2020 European Championship, bringing an end to the incredibly boring outdated format that was previously in place. In revamping the way qualification works, the benefits are endless. Not only for England, but for a host of top European countries who have previously had to endure the rigmarole of endless amounts of travelling for in essence, a guaranteed three points.

Now it's real, top tier international football being played - competitive in terms of standard and far more beneficial for the players to be away from their club sides. Less established nations also step out for action on a more even playing field, safe in the knowledge that they won't be chasing shadows for 90 minutes, before being ultimately pummelled into submission (slightly exaggerated for argument supporting purposes).

The more this competition plays out, the more it seems to make sense. The doubts that many had have begun to dissipate, and although we still don't fully know the ins and outs of how the mini league table structure actually works, isn't it just wonderful to have exciting international football to watch?

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