UEFA Nations League
UEFA Nations League Free Bets
There has always been criticism of the meaningless friendlies that countries play, usually from managers who fear their top players are going to get injured. Well, 2019 sees a big change in the international calendar with the introduction of the UEFA Nations League.
The tournament fills in that ‘empty’ season when there’s no European Championship or World Cup and will present punters with plenty of betting opportunities and those in charge of national sides, another reason to sack their manager when they get their country relegated.
UEFA Nations League Format
There are four levels in this tournament based on rankings, each having four groups and there is promotion and relegation at stake. Each of the four groups in each tier consists of three teams and they play each other home and away between September and November 2018. That will make for a congested fixture list as individual leagues are in progress and the Champions and Europa Leagues are also at their group stages. Perhaps it’s just getting us ready for the chaos that will ensue when the 2022 World Cup is played in the winter rather than the summer.
The teams that finish top in the top tier progress to a knock-out final in June 2019 to decide the first UEFA Nations League winners. June 2019 already has teams playing two Euro 2010 qualifiers, so it could be a hectic time in this league that has knock-out games so isn’t really a league.
Promotion and Relegation
The group winners in each of the other three levels win promotion to the level above them. The teams that finish bottom of the groups in each of the top three levels get relegated to the level below them. All this misery of years without success and now England and the other home nations face the prospect of relegation but don’t worry there’s even more to this competition which is starting to feel as easy to explain as the Duckworth Lewis system in cricket and no one can do that, apart from Duckworth and Lewis. The mere fact that the official regulations page for this tournament is 60 pages long says it all.
Euro 2020 Qualification
The league will have an influence on who qualifies for Euro 2020. Under the current qualification rules, there are four places that aren’t filled by the qualification groups. The four teams that qualify for the Nations League finals have a chance to grab one of those four places. If the four group winners have already qualified then their place will go to the next highest-ranked team from the Nations League tier, though that may not necessarily be the team that finished second in their group as they may have already qualified too. This process is also due to be used for future World Cup qualification.
It all sounds fun, if not confusing but in the end, we just have a load more international games to use our free bets on and goodbye to those boring friendlies. Even if that does mean such classic games as San Marino vs Moldova and Kosovo vs Malta. Then again, countries may still choose to use these matches to field weakened teams and blood new players, so we’ll be back to square one.
England Qualify for the Finals
The group stages ended on Monday November 19 and all the promotion and relegation issues have been confirmed with some surprises along the way. The four teams that have qualified for the finals next year are England, The Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland. Here's how all the groups progressed
Group One; Netherlands, France, and Germany
The nightmare of the World Cup continued into the Nations League for Germany as they suffered relegation at the first time of asking and will compete in League B in the next edition of the tournament. A woeful few performances from the Germans saw them fail to win a game in four and finsih bottom of Group One. Even more surprising is that Netherlands have come out on top of the group, scraping through ahead of France on head-to-head goal difference. Having endured a few torrid years, the Dutch have made a serious resurrgence and will compete in the Nations League Finals in 2019.
Group Two; Iceland, Switzerland, and Belgium
There were some remarkable results in the Nations League group stages, but possibly the most memorable was Switzerland coming from two goals down to beat Belgium 5-2, which saw them into the finals. The teams met on the final day of Group Two with Belgium just needing a draw to see them top the group, so when they went 2-0 ahead after 17 minutes, things looked pretty rosy for the Red Devils. The Swiss were not to be denied, though, scoring five goals in a crazy hour in Lucerne to pip the Belgians on head-to-head goal difference. Iceland were the sacrificial lambs of this group, losing all their matches and being relegated.
Group Three; Poland, Italy, and Portugal
The least exciting of the groups in League A saw Portugal scrap their way through to the finals ahead of Italy and Poland, with the latter suffering the drop to League B. There was not a lot between the Portuguese and the Italians in this one, with the two matches between them ending 1-0 to Portugal and the second in a goalless draw. But it was the lack of firepower that really cost Italy, scoring just two goals in four games. Portugal were hardly free-flowing, but they did enough to get through, with the Poles largely out-classed.
Group Four; Croatia, England, and Spain
England’s incredible year continued as they followed up their thrilling World Cup campaign by topping their Nations League group is spectacular style. After losing their opener to Spain and drawing in Croatia, the Three Lions had it all to do, and that is exactly what they did. Gareth Southgate took his men to Seville and won 3-2, before coming from behind to score two late goals and beat Croatia 2-1 at Wembley and secure top spot a point ahead of Spain. Croatia may consider themselves unfortunate to be relegated with four points, but having only won once and losing 6-0 to Spain in their opener, they cannot have too many complaints. England march on to the finals to take on either Netherlands, Portugal or Switzerland in the semis.
The draw for the semi-finals takes place on 3 December in Dublin.
England face Netherlands in Semi-Final
The draw was made for the semi-finals on December 3 and England will take on the Netherlands while hosts Portugal take on Switzerland. England last faced the Dutch national side in March of this year and beat them 1-0. That ended a run of three defeats by the Netherlands and they have only beaten them once in their last eight games, though four have ended level. In five competitive games, England have won once (in Euro 1996), drawn two and lost two. Portugal faced Switzerland in the last World Cup qualifiers with each side getting a home win.
June 5: Portugal v Switzerland
June 6: England v Netherlands
June 8: Third/fourth place play-off
June 9: Final
P - Promoted R - Relegated
Group One; Czech Republic, Ukraine (P), and Slovakia (R)
Group Two; Turkey (R), Sweden, and Russia
Group Three; Northern Ireland (R), Bosnia and Herzegovina (P) and Austria
Group Four; Denmark (P), Republic of Ireland (R), and Wales
Group One; Israel, Albania, and Scotland
Group Two; Estonia (R), Finland (P), Greece, and Hungary
Group Three; Cyprus, Bulgaria, Norway (P), and Slovenia (R)
Group Four; Lithuania (R), Montenegro, Serbia, and Romania
Group One; Andorra, Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Georgia (P)
Group Two; San Marino, Moldova, Luxembourg, and Belarus (P)
Group Three; Kosovo, Malta, Faroe Islands, and Azerbaijan
Group Four; Gibraltar, Liechtenstein, Armenia, and Macedonia (P)
How to Use Your Free Bet on the UEFA Nations League
There are going to be plenty of opportunities to use your free bets on this tournament. These include
- Overall Winner
- Group Winners
- Countries to be Relegated
- Top goal scorer
- Individual Match Betting
- Stage of elimination for each country
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