Europe’s finest footballers have broken away from their club duties and come together to compete on the international stage.
A run of friendlies and Nations League clashes await from Wednesday evening until October 14, while the process of discovering Euro 2020’s final four competitors continues apace as the continent plays catch-up because of the backlog caused by coronavirus.
Here are five key issues that await:
HAS IT GONE SOUTH FOR GARETH?
Serene progress, such an alien feeling, for England under Gareth Southgate has begun to take a downwards turn toward the dysfunctional norm associated with the international game’s usual great underachievers.
September 5’s, frankly abysmal, 1-0 victory against Iceland which featured hectic late penalty drama at both ends, was then followed by a much-changed side labouring to an instantly forgettable goalless draw at Denmark. This whole stint, however, was overshadowed by indiscretions from young guns Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood in Reykjavik which dominated newspaper front pages back home.
The last thing Southgate would have wanted coming into this month’s Nations League double header versus Belgium and the Danes was more off-field drama, particularly when frays related to the on-field action are beginning to show. Saturday’s impromptu 23rd birthday party for Tammy Abraham, however, attended by compatriots Jadon Sancho and Ben Chilwell broke coronavirus rules by the British government.
This has necessitated their absence for Thursday’s Wales friendly, plus strengthened views about a squad increasingly out of control and returning to the chaotic norm. A player meeting to emphasise the importance of discipline could not come soon enough after these high-profile lapses.
Discussion should be centred on whether Nick Pope can usurp error-strewn goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, how red-hot striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s debut call-up impacts equally in-form skipper Harry Kane and whether a return of a three-man defence was experimental