UEFA Nations League Review and Fixtures
Last updated: September 11, 2018 by Leon Marshal
The UEFA Nations League is underway with all the home nations playing at least one game. It has been a mixed bag so far with defeats for England and Northern Ireland. Wales won their first game but lost their second. It is Scotland who have the biggest smile so far, sitting pretty at the top of their group.
It may be a bit early for Scottish fans to get too excited but the UEFA Nations League does give clubs who have historically struggled to qualify for major competitions a second roll of the dice. As things stand, Scotland could be four wins away from Euro 2020.
Ok, we admit it’s not likely, but to help you assess the chances of all the home nations, we look back at the early action in the competition and see who is next for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
England League A, Group 4
Teams: Spain, Croatia, England
England faced Spain in the most entertaining match of the UEFA Nations League so far that featured the big names in football. Spain won 2-1 but it was the Three Lions who struck first through Marcus Rashford in the 11th minute. His fellow United teammate Luke Shaw found him with a pin point pass for a tap-in. The United youngster had a couple more chances denied by the acrobatics of Spain’s number one, David De Gea. Spain came back with goals from Saul Niguez and Rodrigo to stun the World Cup semi-finalists on home soil.
England are last in the group with just one match played, Croatia are yet to play. The next fixture in the group features Croatia and Spain on 11th September. Gareth Southgate’s team will be watching the match closely, hoping the two teams share points or Spain lose, to keep their hopes of winning the group alive.
England’s defining game is likely to be the away game in Croatia. England will be seeking revenge against the team that knocked them out of the World Cup. Three days later, they will travel to Spain for the away match of the fixture they lost at home.
Next England Fixtures:
12th October 2018: Croatia vs England
15th October 2018: Spain vs England
18th November 2018: England vs Croatia
Wales League B, Group 4
Teams: Denmark, Republic of Ireland, Wales
Ryan Giggs, who took over as Wales manager in January, had a dream first competitive match as coach with a 4 – 1 win at home against the Republic of Ireland. Real Madrid sensation and Wales captain, Gareth Bale, had a goal and an assist in the match, as they looked to put the misery of missing out on the World Cup behind them. The Welsh youngsters look exciting, such as 17-year-old Chelsea prospect Ethan Ampadu, who stole the show on the night with a great performance in the midfield. The match provided a moment to forget for Aaron Ramsey though, as his error led to the Republic’s consolation goal.
After the euphoria of the first match, the Welsh team were sent crashing back to Earth after facing Denmark. The Danes have the excellent Christian Eriksen at their disposal and the Tottenham man obliged, firing a double to sink the Welsh team 2-0. Wales can still win the group if they can manage to beat Denmark when they meet again in November and hope Republic of Ireland will do the dirty work for them against the Danes. It will be a big ask as Denmark are the only World Cup team in the group and will be confident they can progress, such is the quality they possess. Denmark are a hard team to beat but came into the first game of the competition with numerous squabbles surrounding the team. In a recent friendly match, they fielded amateurs that included an internet star and a student in protest. They lost that game to Slovakia 3 – 0.
Next Wales’s fixture:
16th October 2018: Rep of Ireland vs Wales
16th November 2018: Wales vs Denmark
Northern Ireland League B, Group 3
Teams: Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland had a disappointing start to the UEFA Nations League campaign with a 2 – 1 loss against Bosnia and Herzegovina on home turf.
Eden Dzeko inspired the visitors to a win with a great assist for the first goal, before a regrettable howler by their goal keeper Bailey Peacock put the game beyond their reach. Northern Ireland managed to get a goal back through the infamous Will Griggs in the 90th minute. He may have been on fire, but it was too late to salvage the game!
The coach will have a lot to say for a clumsy defensive display that cost them the match, but there were also many positives to be taken from the match. Michael O’Neill’s team had the lion’s share of possession at Windsor Park and Bosnia are a disciplined and experienced side.
Northern Ireland are currently last in the group. Bosnia face Austria tonight in what may be the match to shape the group, even after just one match played.
Next N.Ireland fixtures:
12th October 2018: Austria vs N.Ireland
15th October 2018: Bosnia vs N.Ireland
18th November 2018: N.Ireland vs Austria
Scotland League C, Group 1
Teams: Scotland, Israel, Albania
Scotland had a good start to their campaign with a 2 – 0 home win against Albania. Liverpool’s left back Andrew Robertson forced Berat Xhimshiti into scoring an own goal for the opener in the 47th minute.
Striker Steven Naismith sealed the win for the Scots, making amends for a terrible miss early on. The score line should have been emphatic, with Johnny Russell hitting an air shot when it looked easier to score and Naismith hitting the post when just three yards out.
Albania won their game against Israel 1 – 0 in their opening fixture and seem to be the only serious challenger in the group. Scotland have a good mix of experience and potential with players such as Scot McTominay in the squad. A player to watch out for is versatile full-back Stephen O’Donnell. The 26-year-old, who plays his club football Scottish Premiership club Kilmarnock, covered almost every blade of grass against Albania. He has the potential to be a mainstay in the Scotland team.
Scotland sit top of their group having played one and won one with a goal difference of 2. Albania are second, they have played two, winning one but with a negative goal difference of -1. Israel lost their game against Albania 1 – 0 so sit at the bottom of the group.
Next Scotland fixtures:
11th October 2018: Israel vs Scotland
17th November 2018: Albania vs Scotland
20th November 2018: Scotland vs Israel