This nations League preview will have you ready to go

The Ultimate UEFA Nations League Preview: Everything You Need to Know


Welcome to the ultimate Nations League Preview.

The Premier League season is still not underway, yet there is already an international break on the horizon as the UEFA Nations League returns this week.

This will be the second staging of UEFA’s newest national-team competition with Portugal clinching the first title on home turf in 2019.

So in case you’ve forgotten how it all works (and you’d be forgiven if you had), here’s my Nations League preview

How it works

The league phase is played throughout September, October and November of 2020, with the finals in 2021 and relegation play-offs in March 2022.

The 55 associations were split into four Leagues according to their position in the UEFA National Team Coefficient Rankings and within each league, teams are divided into two pots, again according to the rankings.

Okay, if you’re still following, here’s what happens next.

Teams play each other on a home and away basis, with the four group winners of League A qualifying for the UEFA Nations League Finals in June 2021.

The group winners in Leagues B, C and D gain promotion and those who finish bottom of the groups in Leagues A and B will be relegated.

As League C has four groups while League D has only two, the two League C teams to be relegated will be determined by two-leg play-offs in March 2022.

Now to the slightly more confusing bit.

If a team due to participate in the play-offs qualifies for the 2022 FIFA World Cup play-offs, then the League C teams ranked 47th and 48th in the overall UEFA Nations League rankings are automatically relegated.

That’s because the World Cup play-offs have been tinkered with somewhat for 2022 and consist of two knockout rounds from which three teams qualify.

It will now involve the ten group runners-up plus the best two Nations League group winners who did not directly qualify or reach the play-offs.

Now we all definitely understand that, let’s get into the fun part of the Nations League preview.

The ones to watch

This Nations League preview helps prepare you for the upcoming games

England begin their Nations league campaign with away games against Iceland and Denmark on September 5 and 8 respectively.

Gareth Southgate’s men won all three of their Euro 2020 games following a defeat to the Czech Republic last October, scoring a whopping 17 goals in the process.

The first clash is bound to revive memories of their fateful meeting at the 2016 European Championships which saw Roy Hodgson’s side crash out in the knockout stages.

In one of the most humiliating night’s in the country’s history, England lost 2-1 to Iceland in Nice.

Though by far the most memorable, this was one of just three meetings between the two with one win a piece and one draw dating back to 1982.

Against Denmark, however, England fare slightly better having won 12, drawn four and lost three in a rivalry that goes back to 1948.

The most recent meeting between these two was back in 2014 at Wembley with a Daniel Sturridge goal being the difference in a 1-0 England win.

Scotland have Nations League games at home against Israel on 4 September and away at Czech Republic on 7 September in what’s a busy few weeks for Steve Clarke’s side.

They then face Israel at home in a European Championship qualifier on 8 October having secured a play-off berth after winning their Nations League group last autumn, beating Albania and Israel to top spot.

Having thrashed San Marino 6-0 in the Euro qualifiers last autumn the Scots were then hammered 4-0 by Russia and Belgium in the space of a month.

Northern Ireland have ties against Romania (away, 4 September), Norway (home, 7 September and away, 14 October) and Austria (home, 11 October).

Wales finished their Euro 2020 campaign with two wins and a draw to finish second in their group play four times in the Nations League in September and October.

They face Finland away on 3 September, play Bulgaria at home on 6 September, the Republic of Ireland away on 11 October and Bulgaria away three days later.

Other key games of note include; Germany v Spain and Bulgaria v Ireland on September 3, along with Italy v Bosnia and Netherlands v Poland 24-hours later.

Team Selection

Perhaps the biggest variable in this most convoluted of competitions is the fact that the opening rounds are being played against a backdrop of a global pandemic.

If team selection would have been hard to call at the best of times, the fact that several players have tested positive for Coronavirus or are self-isolating only adds to the uncertainty.

Gareth Southgate’s England plans have been plunged into chaos after reports suggest that five of his squad tested positive for Covid-19.

Meanwhile, skipper Harry Kane is in quarantine after restrictions on visiting the Bahamas changed while he was there on holiday.

All this on the back of Harry Maguire’s exclusion from the squad after his recent altercation in Greece.

The news comes after Manchester United and France star Paul Pogba also contracted the virus and was told to self-isolate.

There are also reports that several Iceland players, who England are due to face in their opening match, have been placed into quarantine and are unlikely to feature.

Things to consider

Of course, the UEFA Nations League will be starting just as many domestic competitions around Europe are getting underway following one of the longest seasons ever.

Then there’s the fact that the most fancied teams to win this tournament already expect to finish 1st or 2nd in their World Cup qualifying group anyway.

But what could be a headache for some of Europe’s top managers could present plenty of opportunities for punters when it comes to value.

Will the likes of France, Germany and England be putting all their eggs in the basket of a competition which was basically designed to make friendlies more interesting?

With that in mind there may well be some good value outside of the usual favourites in a tournament which provides the less fancied sides a second bite at World Cup qualification.

Back in 2018 Turkey come from two down to beat Sweden 3-2 in Matchday One for their first away win in seven, while Switzerland thrashed Belgium 5-2 in Matchday Six.

So a little bit of research around things like team selection and fixture congestion could well pay-off in the long-run.


Want more posts like the Nations League Preview? Click here.

1 comment

Leave a reply

More News