The UEFA Nations League is an International Football tournament contested between countries from across Europe who are governed by UEFA.
The competition was introduced to add a more competitive nature to international friendlies, with teams split into small groups depending on their ranking. These sides can be promoted or relegated from their groups.
Winners of the four top League A groups will battle it out to become UEFA Nations League Champion, with semi-finals, a third place play-off and a final.
All teams can also gain a position in the play-offs to qualify for the European Championships in 2020.
Here we will preview the key matches from the next phase of UEFA Nations League matches.
Nations League Betting Tips – 3rd to 8th September 2020
The 2020-21 UEFA Nations League gets underway this week with some tasty-looking fixtures. It marks a welcome return of international football head of new domestic seasons getting underway later in the month. The home nations are in action, with Gareth Southgate’s England starting their campaign in Iceland at the weekend. Elsewhere, giants Germany and Spain go head-to-head in Stuttgart on Thursday night.
Germany v Spain
19:45, Sky Sports, Mercedes-Benz Arena
It is a real clash of the titans on Thursday evening in Stuttgart as Germany and Spain meet in the standout Nations League fixture of the opening round. This promises to be a cracker at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, with the hosts being the slight favourites with the bookies.
Both had disappointing 2018-19 Nations League tournaments, but the pair will surely be battling for top spot in League A, Group 4. This could be close, although we fancy the Germans to nick it on home soil at decent betting odds of 11/8.
Bulgaria v Republic of Ireland
19:45, Sky Sports, Vasil Levski National Stadium
Stephen Kenny’s reign as boss of Republic of Ireland starts with a Nations League fixture against Bulgaria in Sofia on Thursday. The Irish will be more than eager to get their campaign up and running with three points in the Vasil Levski National Stadium, but this is no easy fixture.
Mick McCarthy set the foundations for the Irish, now Kenny will be hoping to build on Ireland’s recent success. This will be a tough task in the Bulgarian capital, but the Boys in Green can battle to a draw on Thursday. The 1-1 stalemate is nicely priced at odds of 5/1.
Finland v Wales
19:45, Sky Sports / S4C, Helsinki Olympic Stadium
Wales’ Nations League campaign starts in Finland on Thursday. The Dragons were in fine fettle at the end of last year, booking their spot in UEFA Euro 2021. Can Ryan Giggs’ men pick up all three points in their Nations League opener at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium?
Old foes Wales and Ireland go head-to-head in a group once again, but those two will not meet until October. Six points is up for grabs for both before then, and the Dragons should secure the points in Finland on Thursday. The Wales win is available at a nice price of 13/10.
Romania v Northern Ireland
19:45, Sky Sports, Arena Nationala
Ian Baraclough takes his Northern Ireland troops to the Arena Nationala in Budapest to play Mirel Radoi’s Romania on Friday night. This will be a tough Nations League opener for Norn Iron.
The Romanians have shown a big improvement in recent times, but they were thumped 5-0 by Spain in their last game back in November. Michael O’Neill – who was supremely successful while Northern Ireland manager – has moved on, as the Baraclough era gets underway this Friday. Unfortunately, we fancy Romania in this one. Back the hosts to win with a -1 handicap at odds of 7/2.
Scotland v Israel
19:45, Sky Sports, Hampden Park
Scotland begin their 2020-21 Nations League with a fixture with Israel at Hampden Park on Friday. With Slovakia and Czech Republic also in the group, Steve Clarke’s boys will be desperate for maximum points from this one.
The Scots had a fine 2018-19 Nations League, winning three of four to win League C, Group 1 and they secured promotion to League B. We are backing Scotland to start the 2020-21 season with a win on Friday at a price of 4/5.
Iceland v England
17:00, Sky Sports, Laugardalsvollur
Southgate’s England are in Reykjavik this weekend, as the Three Lions take on Erik Hamren’s Iceland at Laugardalsvollur. England will be out for revenge after their defeat to the Icelanders at Euro 2016 four years ago and they should have the ammunition to get the job done.
The English are the favourites and should take home all three points, but Iceland are a tough nut to crack these days. Still, our money is going on Southgate’s boys. Take a punt on England to win and both teams to score at odds of 5/2.
Wales v Bulgaria
14:00, Sky Sports / S4C, Cardiff City Stadium
Wales’ second Nations League match in the international break is against Bulgaria at the Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday. The Dragons will be eyeing up six points from a possible six.
Wales have been excellent on home soil in recent games, winning five and drawing one of the previous six. The Cardiff City Stadium can be a tough place to visit, and Giggs’ boys should get the win on Monday.
Republic of Ireland v Finland
17:00, Sky Sports, Aviva Stadium
Ireland’s first home game of the Nations League takes place on Sunday, as Finland visit the Aviva Stadium. Can the Irish get the win on home turf?
The Fins, who start their campaign against Wales on Thursday, will be tricky opponents for both nations. We fancy Finland to leave Dublin with a draw at the weekend.
Northern Ireland v Norway
19:45, Sky Sports, Windsor Park
Baraclough’s Northern Ireland and Lars Lagerback’s Norway go head-to-head at Windsor Park in Belfast on Monday in Nations League action. This will be Baraclough’s first home match in charge of Norn Iron.
Northern Ireland start with two tough fixtures, while the Norwegians open up their campaign with a game against Austria in Oslo on Friday. This could go either way in Belfast, but our money is going on the draw and both teams to score in what should be an entertaining affair.
Czech Republic v Scotland
19:45, Sky Sports, Andruv Stadion
Clarke’s Scotland travel to the Andruv Stadion in Olomouc to play Jaroslav Silhavy’s Czech Republic on Monday night. The Scots head to the Czech Republic as the big underdogs.
Scotland’s reward for getting promoted is tougher games in the Nations League, and Monday’s match will be a stern test for Clarke’s troops. Unfortunately for the Scots, Czech Republic look too strong. Put some money on the hosts to win both halves.
Netherlands v Italy
19:45, Sky Sports, Johan Cruyff Arena
Two European giants lock horns in Amsterdam on Monday, as Netherlands entertain Italy. Holland begin their League A, Group 1 campaign with a home fixture with Poland this Friday, while the Italians take on Bosnia & Herzegovina in Florence.
The Dutch went all the way to the final in the inaugural Nations League, eventually losing to hosts Portugal. We are expecting them to go far once again. Put a few quid on Holland to win and both teams to score in this heavyweight clash.
Denmark v England
19:45, Sky Sports, Parken Stadium
England face their second away game within a few days when they travel to the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen to play Kasper Hjulmand’s Denmark in Nations League Group A2 on Tuesday night. Will the Three Lions start with back-to-back away wins?
Denmark begin with two very tough games, as the Danes welcome Belgium to Copenhagen before hosting England. The Three Lions will fancy their chances in the Danish capital on Tuesday. Back England to be winning at half time and full time.
France v Croatia
19:45, Sky Sports, Stade de France
France and Croatia square off at the Stade de France on Tuesday in a repeat of the 2018 FIFA World Cup final, which Les Bleus won. Can the Croatians get revenge in this mouth-watering Nations League fixture?
France have been in stunning form over the last couple of years. In fact, before their Nations League opener with Sweden on Saturday, Didier Deschamps’ men have been beaten just twice since winning the World Cup over two years ago. The French should be too strong for the Croatians on Tuesday and we’re backing them for victory here.
UEFA Nations League Ante Post Betting Tips 2020-2021
The second season of the UEFA Nations League will get underway in September, adding further to what will be a hectic period of football for many players. The league phase games will come thick and fast, with the Nations League finals taking place in September or October 2021, just a few months after the belated Euro 2020 finals. 55 European nations will battle it out in this tournament though and after the Nations League proved a hit in its inaugural year it must be hoped that any disruption to the current competition is kept to a minimum.
The dates have already been shuffled round but hopefully we now know the precise structure and dates of the 2020-21 event. The relegation play-offs will take place in March 2022 but we have a lot of football to be played before then.
The 2018-19 Nations League Story
The first Nations League campaign was a huge success. There were plenty of questions before a ball was kicked, but the 2018-19 season proved the doubters wrong. We saw packed crowds in big stadiums, several thrilling matches and the world’s best players put on a show in the tournament. The format meant we saw fewer mismatches, more competitive games and frequent clashes between top sides and proved popular with fans, players and managers.
Portugal, the current European champions, won the inaugural competition. The Portuguese got through their group before beating Switzerland in Porto in the semi-finals, with Cristiano Ronaldo grabbing a hat-trick. In the final, Portugal beat Netherlands 1-0 to lift the trophy. Gareth Southgate’s England finished in third, beating the Swiss on penalties in the third-place play-off, having earlier lost 3-1 to Netherlands after extra time.
Who Will Win the 2020-21 Nations League?
The UEFA European Championship and FIFA World Cup are far more prestigious, but the Nations League is certainly a tournament worth winning for the big boys. In time it may even come to be viewed as a major tournament in its own right. Portugal were worthy winners of the inaugural event, but who will prevail in the second edition?
France – 7/2
Current World Cup holders France are the favourites to win the second Nations League campaign, with the bookies currently pricing Les Blues at just 7/2. The French have a world class squad glittered with talent, and they could be the team to beat in this tournament.
France go up against Portugal, Sweden and Croatia in League A, Group A3. It is a tough group, but Didier Deschamps’ men should finish top and book their spot in the Nations League Finals. The World Champions are our pick to win the tournament outright and given the age of many of their best players they should remain a force for years to come too.
England – 11/2
England keep on improving under Gareth Southgate and potentially have even more great young talent than France. After finishing fourth at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the Three Lions took the bronze medal in the opening Nations League competition. The English beat Switzerland on penalties in the third-place play-off to secure third position.
Can England go one better and book their place in the final this time? Exciting times lie ahead for Southgate and his talented team, but the Three Lions face Belgium, Denmark and Iceland in a tough group. Before a ball has been kicked, England are available at 11/2 to win the tournament. Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane are veterans at 25 and 27 respectively and with the likes of Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and Trent Alexander-Arnold only going to get better with age, the Three Lions have to be targeting silverware in the years ahead.
Belgium – 6/1
After an excellent World Cup campaign in Russia, Belgium will want to keep on moving forward under Roberto Martinez and like England they will feel this is a great period for them with a real chance to win something. The Belgians were superb in the World Cup, but they missed out on the Nations League finals after finishing runners-up to Switzerland in Group A2, losing the final game 5-2 to the Swiss after being 2-0 up!
Belgium, who are priced at 6/1, will no doubt be one of the strongest sides in this season’s Nations League. Martinez’s men will play England, Denmark and Iceland. Can Belgium, who finished third in Russia, go far in this tournament and upset Southgate men’s?
Netherlands – 8/1
Netherlands are back on the right track after several years of hurt. The Dutch have reached UEFA Euro 2021 and are available at 8/1 to win the Nations League. Holland go up against the likes of Italy, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Poland in League A, Group A1.
Holland won their group in the 2018-19 Nations League to advance through to the finals in Portugal. Having beaten England in the semis, they lost 1-0 to the hosts at the Estadio do Dragao in Porto in the final. Ronald Koeman has left to take over at Barcelona, but Netherlands will still be a force in this competition and their tussle with Italy will be key.
Italy – 10/1
Italy are usually dangerous in major tournaments. The four-time World Cup winners are among the favourites at 10/1 to lift the Nations League trophy, and you can never rule Gli Azzurri out, although they will not have things easy in the group phase with the Dutch to overcome.
Roberto Mancini’s have something of a point to prove in the Nations League as the Italians were disappointing in the first edition of this tournament, taking just five points from four games and finishing three points behind eventual winners Portugal in the group stage. Italy will surely be more competitive this time around and have one or two top class players who can shine if Mancini can get the blend right.
Portugal – 12/1
Portugal were the winners of the first Nations League tournament, beating Holland in the final after seeing off the Swiss in the last four. The Portuguese, who also won Euro 2016 in France, won two and drew two of four group games to finish three points ahead of Italy.
Fernando Santo has done a remarkable job as Portugal boss in recent years, turning the Portuguese into a European powerhouse once again. If you fancy Ronaldo and co to retain their Nations League crown, check out the decent price of 12/1. CR7 just seems to keep getting better and his hunger for glory shows no sign of diminishing. If he is at his best he certainly has what it takes to power his nation to a brilliant defence of their title.
Who Has An Outside Chance?
A whole host of nations will back themselves to go far in the Nations League – we haven’t even mentioned Spain or Germany, who go head to head in Group A4. The usual suspects will be there or thereabouts, but will we see a surprise winner? We take a look at the dark horses.
Croatia – 33/1
Croatia finally come of age when they finished second at the 2018 World Cup. The Croatians had a tournament to remember on Russian soil, eventually losing out in the final to France. Their core of world class players may be edging towards the end of their elite years but could they have one last swansong?
It should be remembered that in the first Nations League competition, Croatia finished bottom of Group A4, losing 6-0 to Spain along the way. They are in another tough group with the likes of France, Portugal and Sweden, but 33/1 for Croatia to win the Nations League are very generous odds. How far can they go under Zlatko Dalic?
Iceland – 150/1
Iceland shocked the footballing world when they qualified, then knocked England out of Euro 2016 in France. This is certainly the golden age of Icelandic football, as Erik Hamren’s side also participated at the 2018 World Cup and are still in with a shout of qualifying for Euro 2021.
Of course, winning the Nations League will be an enormous task for Iceland, but 150/1 is a tempting price. Hamren’s troops take on England, Belgium and Denmark in their group. Can Iceland shock the Three Lions once again?
About the Nations League
The Nations League is a new international competition that was introduced in 2018, with the first games taking place in September that year. It is sanctioned by UEFA (its full name is the UEFA Nations League) and slots into the FIFA football calendar in place of international friendlies.
It is too early to say for sure whether the new competition has been or will be an overwhelming success. (At the time of writing we have just finished the initial group phase of the inaugural competition.) However, the chief aim of those that helped create the new event was to make friendly games more competitive and meaningful in the eyes of the fans and early signs indicate that it has worked, at least to a degree.
Given how new the Nations League is we would forgive you for not being fully conversant with its intricacies. Thankfully we’ve got everything you need to know about the new tournament right here. Whether you want info on the event’s structure, formation or history, or betting tips and strategy information, we’ve got loads of great information on the Nations League.
So… What’s the Point of it?
As said, the Nations League is an international (men’s) football tournament organised by UEFA, the governing body for European football. It is scheduled to take place every two years and the initial tournament will be tied to Euro 2020 in the sense that teams will be able to qualify for the Euros via the Nations League.
In UEFA’s own words: The rejuvenation of national team football – and the UEFA Nations League – stems from the desire of UEFA and its 55 member associations to improve the quality and standing of national team football. UEFA and its associations wanted more sporting meaning in national team football, with associations, coaches, players and supporters increasingly of the opinion that friendly matches are not providing adequate competition for national teams.
Many have claimed that the Nations League is simply an attempt to make friendly games more marketable. By creating a tournament, games can be packaged together and TV rights deals more easily sold, and for more cash. Naturally enough, all those involved with the Nations League deny this.
No matter what the true motivation happens to be, for the time being at least, the Nations League looks to be here to stay. European clubs will still play occasional friendlies but many of these have been replaced by the Nations League.
Nations League Betting Strategy
Betting on the Nations League has already proved hugely popular, in part because what it has replaced was so unpredictable. International friendlies have been the bane of many a football fan because squads were often beset by withdrawals and managers were inclined to experiment and make so many substitutions that the flow of a game could be massively disrupted. The Nations League isn’t taken 100% seriously by 100% of teams 100% of the time but even so, initial games have proved more competitive and there are standardised rules regarding subs.
All of our favourite football betting sites have most certainly embraced the Nations League and in terms of the coverage they provide, betting on the new competition is a real treat. Just about all of the matches and certainly those between the bigger nations, are very well catered to by the top bookies in the business. You’ll find a wide range of markets and specials, both pre-match and in-play. As ever, the hardest part of all this is deciding what to back.
In the various competition guides we have here at BestBettingSites, we look at tournament- and event-specific betting strategies that might be able to help you out. We’ve also got a dedicated guide to betting on football and also to betting in general. These more general strategy guides are undoubtedly a good place to start when it comes to the Nations League.
With a nascent competition like this there are no past trends to look at and nothing really specific about the Nations League that we can use to formulate any form of overarching betting strategy.
The only real thing we would highlight, aside from the usual factors that impact upon value, is to pay particular attention to how seriously teams appear to be taking the competition. Much as UEFA would love all nations to give the competition their all, some have clearly taken it more seriously than others.
Paying particular attention to the language used by the managers and players, as well as noting how strong or experimental the various nations’ squads are, could well pay dividends. It is also worth being aware of the situation within any given group, with dead rubbers or the presence of teams with nothing to play for almost certain to have an impact on the results.
A (Very) Short History of the Nations League
Many of football’s biggest events have long, illustrious and rich histories full of strange facts and unusual events. The Nations League, in contrast, is a real baby and a little like when sports stars and other celebrities bring out auto-biographies whilst barely out of school, there really isn’t all that much to say.
- 2011 – UEFA Strategy Meeting in Cyprus: discussions take place about how friendly games can be made more appealing to fans and teams
- 2011-2014 – Top Executive Programme Meetings: talks continue regarding possible formation of new competition
- March 2014 – XXXVIII Ordinary UEFA Congress: new event is unanimously adopted following Congress in Astana
- December 2014: format of Nations League agreed
- September 2018: first matches of inaugural competition held around Europe
- November 2018: Portugal is named as host for first finals
- December 2018: draw for finals takes place in Ireland
- June 2019: four teams play semi finals, final and third/fourth place play-off
Competition Structure and Format
The structure of the Nations League can seem a little complex at first but that’s simply because it’s new. In fact, it is relatively easy to understand – at least we think so! There are four leagues – A, B, C and D – with League A containing the best sides and League D the weakest of the 55 UEFA nations.
A and B have 12 teams, divided into four groups (1-4) of three teams each. League C has 15 teams, with one group of three and three groups of four. League D contains 16 sides, with four groups of four.
Which league a nation began in was decided using the post-World Cup UEFA co-efficients for all 55 nations involved. Teams play all other sides in their group home and away between September and November, meaning four games for each side (or six for those in groups of four nations).
The top nation in each League A group progresses to the finals, with a draw determining the semi finals and the winners of these meeting in the overall Nations League final to decide who will be the outright winner. The bottom sides in each League A group are relegated to League B.
Relegation for the bottom sides takes place in all leagues, aside from the lowest, D. In League C, where there are three groups of four nations and one of three, things are slightly different. The three sides finishing fourth are joined by the worst ranked nation to finish third in any of the four groups.
How are Rankings Decided?
At various stages, sides are ranked in different ways and a range of methods is used to decide who comes out on top. In the initial group, obviously points determine who wins the group but the second ranking factor (should two sides be level) is points gained in the games between those nations. There are a total of 12 ranking factors to decide who has won the group (or finished last) and interestingly overall goal difference is only the sixth most important of them.
In League C we have another ranking to determine – who is the worst third-placed side. For the three groups with four teams, matches against the bottom nation are discounted, meaning points based on four games are used to rank the four teams who finished third. Should there be a tie based on that information, the ranking hierarchy has a more familiar feel, as detailed below:
- Goal difference
- Goals scored
- Total away goals
- Number of wins
- Away wins
- Fair play
- UEFA co-efficient
Last but not least, sides are ranked from 1 to 55 in terms of their overall performance, with these rankings becoming relevant to Euro 2020 qualification. League A sides are automatically ranked 1-12, with B 13-24 and so on.
The position a side finishes in their group is the first ranking criteria, so, for example, all four group winners in League A will be ranked 1-4 overall. To decide who is first and who is fourth, the same criteria listed above (goal difference, goals scored, et cetera) is used.
A Place at Euro 2020 Awaits?
One of the key elements of the Nations League is that it offers a route into the European Championships. In the same way the Europa League winners are granted a ticket into the Champions League, it is hoped that by adding the chance to qualify for Euro 2020, sides will take the Nations League more seriously.
There is no doubt that this is a great idea and definitely goes a long way towards elevating the competition. Without the carrot of a place at the Euros, it would be far easier to argue that the entire event is a charade, simply friendly games rebranded.
The main qualifying process for the Euros has been altered slightly, with games now beginning in March 2019 instead of September 2018 (following the World Cup). However, the biggest change is that only 20 of the 24 spots available will be up for grabs via the main route. Four will be set aside for the Nations League, with no spot reserved for hosts due to the pan-European staging of Euro 2020 across multiple cities.
Seedings for qualification are based on the overall Nations League standings. This also means that the top four teams who made the Nations League final are guaranteed to be drawn in a group of five. There will be five groupings of five teams and five of six and with the top two qualifying it is clearly advantageous to be in a quintet.
The final four places available at Euro 2020 will be decided by play-offs but, breaking with convention, the nations in these play-offs will be decided by their performance in the Nations League, not the main qualification period. Of course, those teams that have already secured their place at Euro 2020 will not be involved, with their position passed down to a lower ranked nation.
Each of the initial four leagues of the Nations League will have its own pathway into the finals. In the March preceding the Euros, the play-off semis and final will take place. Within each path the highest ranked side will play the fourth highest in one semi final. Second and third will meet in the other. The winners of each semi will clash in the final. The semis will be hosted by the higher ranked nation but the venue for the final deciding games will be decided by a draw.
Will the Nations League Grow?
Whilst all that no doubt sounds very complex if you are reading it for the very first time, we feel the Nations League will grow to become a permanent fixture on the football calendar. At the time of writing, reaction to the concept has largely been positive. Players, managers, fans and federations have largely bought into the Nations League.
The intricacies and minutiae of the format and structure may take some ironing out but all in all we predict the competition will develop into a third major tournament. It will always trail behind the World Cup and the Euros in terms of history, glamour and prestige but we feel the tag of the competition being nothing more than a glorified series of friendlies will quickly diminish.
As England boss Gareth Southgate pointed out, it’s worth noting that early editions of both the World Cup and the European Championships hardly set the football world ablaze with excitement. Indeed, many nations, including England, Netherlands, West Germany and Italy, declined to take part in the first ever European Championships.
Nobody can be sure of the future and whilst there is a chance the Nations League will fade quickly into obscurity, we believe the more likely scenario is that it will prove a hit. Some pundits and fans may believe success in the inaugural finals would end England’s ever-lengthening “years of hurt” and whilst that may be a slight overstatement right now, history may judge things differently if our predictions about the competition prove correct. One thing is for certain though, success in the Nations league would certainly rank above the Three Lions’ last success in the 1997 Tournoi de France!
A Handful of Facts
The Nations league may be a footballing baby but check out our top six facts and stats. (Note all information is correct as of November 2018.)
- Giorgi Chakvetadze – the Georgian midfielder notched the first ever goal in the Nations League, against Kazakhstan
- Aleksandar Mitrovic – the Newcastle and Serbia striker was the top scorer in the inaugural Nations League, notching six times
- 333 – there were 333 goals scored in the group phase of the 2018 Nations League, an average of 2.41 per game
- Latin – the Nations League anthem is was composed by Giorgio Tuinfort and Franck van der Heijden and is sung in Latin
- Frank – not exactly a Nations League fact but for a translation of the anthem, get in touch with Frank Lampard – he got an A in his GCSE Latin!
- Portugal – the first Nations League finals will be held in Portugal, with Portugal, England, Switzerland and Netherlands set to battle it out for glory