Scepticism and confusion over the Nations League have been overtaken by teams at all levels taking it seriously
A pile-on by the corner flag in Stockholm said it best. Turkey had just come from two goals down to defeat a seemingly comfortable Sweden and, in those chaotic moments after Emre Akbaba’s header drifted past a slow-footed Robin Olsen, a full 20 seconds passed before their outfield players disentangled themselves from the jubilant scrum beyond the quadrant.
It was some way for Turkey, so reliably inconsistent, to ignite their Uefa Nations League campaign and it was just as significant for the nascent tournament itself. Akbaba had entered as a substitute in the 62nd minute: in a friendly he would have been one of up to six replacements for his country and probably a footnote as the match degenerated; here he was introduced, as one of Mircea Lucescu’s permitted three, at 2-1 down in a clear attempt to swing the pendulum. The winning goal was his second in three minutes and the scenes that followed it were coloured with the kind of wild, wide‑eyed joy that few noncompetitive games can replicate.
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