Joshua Kimmich’s well-taken equaliser earned Germany a 1-1 draw with Italy in their Nations League opener, ensuring his side remain unbeaten under their coach, Hansi Flick. Hungary lead League A Group Three after their 1-0 victory over England in Budapest.
Italy fielded an experimental side for their match in Bologna and gave Flick’s team a real test. Lorenzo Pellegrini edged the hosts in front after 70 minutes, but Kimmich pounced three minutes later to deliver his side a point. Germany host England next in the Nations League on Tuesday, with Italy facing Hungary.
“It is a pity we conceded the equaliser straight after; we were naive, because it was not an easy game, especially at the start,” the Italy coach, Roberto Mancini, told Rai Sport. “It was the first time these players played together, they did a great job, they suffered when they had to, attacked when they had to.”
Mancini mixed things up after Italy’s 3-0 defeat by Argentina in the Finalissima, with only the goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma keeping his place in the starting XI. But the new-look Italy impressed, with the Sassuolo striker Gianluca Scamacca going close to a first-half opener when his well-hit strike clipped the post. The visitors wasted a glorious opportunity of their own in the opening half, with Serge Gnabry firing over from a good position.
Mancini continued to blood young players after the break, with one debutant – 18-year-old Wilfried Gnonto – setting up Pellegrini to give Italy the lead. But sloppy defending then cost Italy dear as they failed to clear a loose ball in the penalty area and Kimmich levelled.
The hosts pressed for a late winner but settled for a point as Flick became the third coach in the history of the Germany team to stay undefeated in his first 10 matches after Sepp Herberger and Josef Derwall.
In League B Group Three, Bosnia-Herzegovina scored a stoppage-time equaliser to draw 1-1 in Finland, while Montenegro went top with a 2-0 win against Romania. League C Group One saw Turkey ease to a 4-0 victory over Faroe Islands and Luxembourg win 2-0 in Lithuania.
Switzerland’s coach, Murat Yakin, has denied a rift with his captain, Granit Xhaka, who was critical of the team’s tactics after they were beaten by the Czech Republic in the Nations League on Thursday. Yakin said Xhaka’s comments were misread and accused critics of seeking to disrupt the team as they prepare to take on Portugal in Lisbon on Sunday in their second League A Group Two match.
“I’ve listened to his statements and I don’t see that as a criticism of my tactics at all,” Yakin said. “It is important to listen to how the question that was put to him was worded exactly. I’ve discussed his position. They’re trying to drive a wedge between us, which I don’t understand at all.”
Xhaka, who has 101 caps for the country, said after the 2-1 loss in Prague that he felt he should be allowed to play deeper in midfield than the coach had dictated by his tactics. “I don’t understand all the fuss,” Yakin said. “Granit always wants to play, but I’ll wait for the [Saturday] training session and won’t announce the lineup until tomorrow.”