For most fans, international breaks are merely a nuisance that comes to distract from the more important business of club football. This time around though, there is at least something to look forward to. The new UEFA Nations League will replace a majority of the meaningless friendlies that were played at this time of year.
Here are five things to look out for in the very first matches of the competition.
Mbappé to soar
Kylian Mbappé has now established himself as a bona fide world-class attacker, and the leading man for world champions France. The PSG teenager took the World Cup by storm, where his valiant performances inspired Les Bleus to glory in Russia.
He has carried the same vein of form back to his club, where he already has four goals in three matches in Ligue 1. He’ll be looking to keep the fire burning when France take on Germany in the first match of the UEFA Nations League tomorrow.
Germany seek redemption
Germany succumbed to the champions’ curse as they joined their predecessors Spain and Italy in the list of defending champions who were eliminated from the group stage of the World Cup. Their disastrous campaign in Russia began with a meek performance and a 1-0 loss to Mexico, and ended after South Korea beat them 2-0 in the final group match.
Manager Joachim Löw remained in charge of the team and will want to see his undoubtedly talented squad perform better. They have a perfect opportunity to do so by humbling the world champions on home soil.
Italy begin their rebuild
While the likes of Germany toil over their poor showing at the World Cup, 2006 champions Italy will have to work their way up from scratch after missing the tournament entirely. They fired Giampiero Ventura, under whose management they failed to qualify, and have since appointed former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini to spearhead their rebuilding efforts.
Their Group 3 match against Poland on Friday will be their first competitive match since the disastrous tie against Sweden that sealed their World Cup fate.
Wales out for revenge
Wales will be out for blood when they face the Republic of Ireland tomorrow night. The Dragons were coming off the back of an impressive Euro 2016, where they reached the semi-finals. They had very high hopes of reaching the World Cup as well, but James McClean scored to hand the Irish a 1-0 win and crush those hopes. Ryan Giggs has since replaced Chris Coleman who was in charge of Wales for that match, and said that his side is not thinking of revenge. It is unlikely however, that the players and especially the fans aren’t thinking of getting payback.
Reality check for Russia?
Russia were one of the surprise packages of the World Cup they hosted this year. They beat Saudi Arabia and Egypt in their first two matches, and eliminated favourites Spain in the round of 16. They of course had the advantage of home support, but the true test of their form will likely come post-tournament. They face Turkey in Group 2 of League B on Friday.