Wales among quartet to declare interest in hosting Nations League finals

By Sports Desk April 13, 2022

Wales are among the countries to have declared an interest in hosting the 2022-23 Nations League finals.

UEFA confirmed on Wednesday that the football associations of Wales, Belgium, Poland and Netherlands have all declared their interest in making a bid, with the deadline to submit final bid dossiers not until October 5.

The league phase begins in June 2022, and will run until September, with a break between then and June to allow for the remainder of the domestic season and the 2022 World Cup.

The hosts will be confirmed in January 2023, with the finals due to be held from June 14-18.

The draw for the competition took place in December, with 2018 World Cup finalists France and Croatia together in Group A1, Spain and Portugal among those in Group A2, and the trio of Italy, England and Germany featuring in Group A3.

Interestingly, the four nations to have declared an interest in hosting the finals have all been pitted against one another in Group A4.

Portugal staged the first edition of the tournament in 2019, while Italy hosted in 2021.

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    Wales came agonisingly close to a famous win in Pretoria, ultimately going down 32-29 following four costly yellow cards – including one for Biggar.

    After playing a brief period with 12 men, Wales had 13 on the pitch when an unlikely try gave Biggar a conversion that would have secured an improbable late lead.

    Instead, he missed the posts and was then punished for a knock-on at the other end, allowing Damian Willemse to settle the match from the tee.

    There would have undoubtedly been some relief in the Springboks camp as they were ultimately able to celebrate following their first home game in front of a crowd since winning the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

    Trailing 18-3 at half-time, South Africa captain Siya Kolisi acknowledged afterwards: "They [Wales] got under our skin."

    There were multiple confrontations between the two sets of players off the ball, and Kolisi added his team "did a couple of things out of character".

    When Biggar subsequently faced the media, he could not understand why Wales were expected to shoulder the blame for incidents of this nature.

    "I don't know what the referee expected us to do," he said. "Just come here, lie down and give South Africa everything their own way?

    "From our point of view, we wanted to try to get in their faces, get in their faces and not take a backwards step. That's part of the game.

    "We were coming here, and if you stand off South Africa out here, then you'll get steam-rolled pretty quickly. You need some aggression and competitiveness and get into it.

    "I didn't see any issue. They were just as niggly, competitive and as abrasive as we were. From our point of view, that was perfect for us.

    "The decisions will be analysed. But from our point of view, I don't understand why people are bothered about it.

    "It's a Test match, and we're away from home against the world champions. I'm not quite sure what people expected from us, just roll the carpet out and applaud them off the pitch?

    "I don't know what the issue is. It's a Test match and we were more than happy to get stuck into them. That's what Test matches are about.

    "I really don't understand. I see it as a non-event. That's exactly what you want from a Test match; you want it confrontational, you want it aggressive.

    "There was no dirty play or anything. We just went at it and got confrontational. It worked for us, certainly in the first half.

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    De Jong, who emerged as one of European football's hottest properties under Erik ten Hag at Ajax before joining Barca in 2019, has been strongly linked with a move to Old Trafford since his former boss took over at United.

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    "We know of clubs that want him, not only United, and we have no intention of selling him. The player, I get the impression, wants to stay. 

    "He is comfortable at Barca and I will do what is in my power so that Frenkie stays here, but it is also a salary issue and it would have to be adjusted.

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    De Jong made 47 appearances for Barcelona during the 2021-22 season, scoring four goals and boasting the best passing accuracy (91.18 per cent) of any of the club's midfielders to play at least 20 games in all competitions.

    Laporta refused to be drawn on Barcelona's interest in Lewandowski, however, only affirming his respect for the Poland international's current club. 

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    "Everyone knows that he is a great player, but I would prefer to be reserved because he is a Bayern player. 

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