LASESARRE, SPAIN - AUGUST 5: Puma Orbita, the official match ball of LaLiga in detail prior the pre-season friendly match between Athletic Club and Real Sociedad on August 5, 2022 at Lasesarre Stadium in Barakaldo, Spain. Noxthirdxpartyxsales PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxJPN 195228971

Goodness me. Back to life, back to reality. Less than a year after the Republic of Ireland went to Cardiff and secured a crucial 1-0 victory against Chris Coleman’s men, Martin O’Neill’s gang of full-time mad bastards suffered an embarrassing 4-1 defeat in the same stadium during the Nations League, albeit with a heavily injury-hit squad.

I quite like the idea of us being a bit crap for a few years though. As I mentioned on Tuesday, I’m not overly fussed about international football. I think that it’s general format and tendency to attract band-wagoners makes it far less enticing to watch than club football. Often, it’s a lot more fun being a bit shit though, don’t you think? Jonathan Walters leading the line at the age of thirty-five would’ve been a fantastic dystopian, self-depreciating joke back in 2013, but now it’s very much real life. Scarily so as well, I might add. Certainly, if you’re taking this whole thing in any way seriously. But it’s very funny if you’re just not that arsed.

I remember watching an interview on Sky Sports with Roger Federer, back in what must have been either 2011 or 2012. He had won a certain tournament for the first time in seven years, and when asked about it, he joked that he wouldn’t mind waiting another seven years to win it, because at least it would mean he’d still be playing in seven years time. “Ha, Roger Federer still playing in 2018, as if, he’ll probably be in a retirement home,” I thought. But sure enough, he’s still going strong. Stephen Ward is the same, except Stephen Ward isn’t a world-class athlete. An athlete who has become a global icon for being the greatest left-back in the history of the sport. He’s Stephen Ward.

The UEFA Nations League is brilliant by the way. Whether or not the amount of people who understand it or not has reached doubles figures yet remains unclear, but they’ve at least got an anthem. And it appears to be an anthem so impressive that they’ve gone as far as to only release a teaser trailer of it.

The best part of the whole competition though is League D. If you haven’t heard, one of the following teams is guaranteed qualification to Euro 2020 via the Nations League.

Group D1:
Georgia, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Andorra.

Group D2:
Belarus, Luxembourg, Moldova, San Marino.

Group D3:
Azerbaijan, Faroe Islands, Malta, Kosovo.

Group D4:
FYR Macedonia, Armenia, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar.

Can’t wait for RDM to have to make a Faroe Islands analysis site in June 2020.

In all seriousness though, how long is it going to be before teams start tanking when they know they can’t win their league and just try to get relegated for ease of qualification next time around? By the looks of it, not very long.

I wouldn’t mind a campaign or two in League D though. Armenia beat Liechtenstein 2-1 last night, and I can’t stop feeling like being there would’ve been a hell of a lot of fun for all involved. Some brilliant aways in there as well. Gibraltar, Kosovo and Malta all sound like great nights out.

In other Group D news, Andorra managed to avoid defeat for only the sixth ever time in a competitive match last night, drawing 0-0 with Latvia. Add that to your list of football facts that sound like jokes but are actually true. It’s right up there with Tottenham spending less money in the 2018 summer transfer window than the price of a Twix. Not a great match I’ve heard. Unlike most of those games though there’s actually proof that it did, in fact, take place.

Imagine paying money to get the rights to that. The Denmark thing was quite funny as well, albeit a bit frustrating knowing that I probably would’ve gotten my first international cap if I had a Danish grandfather. Bringing all the futsal players in seemed a bit too far though. If all felt very Mourinho or Benitez. You know, going out of your way to show those above you how bad the situation that they’ve left you in is. It really wasn’t necessary for a country with a population of over five million. Could they not have just recalled the Laudrup brothers and got the old band back together? As yer Da says, “if it worked in the 90’s, it’ll work now”.

All the best. I’m off to learn the Nations League anthem on the tin whistle.