The first set of Nations League games proved to be something of a challenge for England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, with a mixed bag of results for the teams over the first two rounds of matches.
This weekend we will see the next two rounds of games played, the first from Thursday through to Saturday and the second from Sunday through to Tuesday. After which we may well have a much clearer idea of which teams are challenging for promotion from their respective League’s and which teams are going to be battling against the drop.
Let’s now take a look at how the Nations League campaign has gone so far for the five teams and who they will be facing in the competition over the forthcoming weekend, together with our tips for how we think each team will fare.
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League A – Group 4
- England 1 (Rashford)
- Spain 2 (Saul Niguez, Rodrigo)
- Spain 6 (Saul Niguez, Asensio, Kalinic OG, Rodrigo, Ramos, Isco)
- Croatia 0
- Croatia v England – Friday 12th October
Full Time Result – Draw – 9/4
Correct Score – Croatia 1-1 England
Anytime Goalscorer – Harry Kane (England) 11/8
A real test for Gareth Southgate’s young England team as they face the team that dumped them out of the World Cup at the semifinal stage. Both teams have been hit by injuries and retirements from key players, but Croatia’s brilliant midfield duo of Rakitic and Modric remain the key to their success. That said, I still fancy this young England side to come away with a draw as I feel England are a real threat set plays and Croatia’s defence is not as strong as it was in the summer.
- Spain v England – Monday 15th October
There’s no odds available for the second round of games just yet, but Spain away will be an even tougher test for England, who have not won in Spain since February 1987, when four goals from Gary Lineker gave the Three Lions a 4-2 win. Spain have won five of the last seven between the teams and in truth, I expect that to be six of the last eight against a depleted England team.
League B – Group 3
- Northern Ireland 1 (Grigg)
- Bosnia Herzegovina 2 (Duljevic, Saric)
- Bosnia Herzegovina 1 (Dzeko)
- Austria 0
- Austria v Northern Ireland – Friday 12th October
Full Time Result – Austria to win – 11/20
Correct Score – Austria 2-1 Northern Ireland – 15/2
Anytime Goalscorer – Marko Arnautovic (Austria) – 11/10
For me, Austria are the strongest of three well-matched teams in this group and I think at home they will be a real test for both Northern Ireland and Bosnia. The Bosnian’s may have six points, but I can see Austria winning their next two games, which would really tighten up this group. Northern Ireland will make a real challenge of it here and I think they will score, but I think Austria have just too much in attack to lose this one.
- Bosnia Herzegovina v Northern Ireland – Monday 15th October
Northern Ireland will take heart despite their defeat to Bosnia Herzegovina in Belfast last month as in truth, it was a game they dominated but which Bosnia profited from some defensive lapses to earn an undeserved win. If they can produce a similar performance in Sarajevo, then a draw is possible here, but my gut feeling is that Bosnia Herzegovina on home soil may just be too strong and sneak another narrow win here.
League B – Group 4
- Wales 4 (Lawrence, Bale, Ramsey, Roberts)
- Republic of Ireland 1 (Williams)
- Denmark 2 (Eriksen 2)
- Wales 0
|3||Rep of Ireland||1||1||4||0||-3|
- Republic of Ireland v Denmark – Saturday 13th October
Full Time Result – Denmark to win – 7/5
Correct Score – Republic of Ireland 1-2 Denmark – 9/1
Anytime Goalscorer – Yussuf Poulsen (Denmark) – 11/4
With Christian Eriksen ruled out through injury, Ireland’s tormentor in chief in their 5-1 defeat to the Danes in the World Cup Qualification play off is a huge miss for Denmark. That I think gives Ireland a chance here but their lack of experience is a massive worry. The Danes are well organised but will miss Eriksen’s creativity but that said, I still think they will do just enough to win the game.
- Republic of Ireland v Wales – Tuesday 16th October
How Ireland do against Denmark will determine what the context of this game is. A win for Ireland against the Danes and the group is wide open again, a draw puts Denmark in control, and win means Ireland will need to win this game to stand any chance of avoiding relegation into League C. Wales though have a stronger squad, with more talent and experience and I think even in Dublin, this will be a tough game for the Irish, though I am backing them to get a draw.
League C – Group 1
- Albania 1 (T.Xhaka)
- Israel 0
- Scotland 2 (Djimsiti og, Naismith)
- Albania 0
- Israel v Scotland – Thursday 11th October
Full Time Result – Scotland to win – 17/10
Correct Score – Israel 0-1 Scotland – 6/1
Anytime Goalscorer – Robert Snodgrass – 7/2
After a good win over Albania, this is a big test for the Scots, but I fancy them to get the job done against Israel side that have lost four in a row and who are not perhaps as strong as some of their more recent teams. I can’t see many goals being scored and set pieces will be crucial, hence I’ve gone for 1-0 to Scotland with Robert Snodgrass, Scotland’s best dead ball expert, as the anytime goalscorer.
- Israel v Albania – Sunday 14th October
This game won’t be one of the most watched games of the weekend, but it will be of intrigue to Scotland. They’ll be hoping Israel can claim a win here, unless Israel beat them in midweek in which case draw will probably be the preferred result for the Scots and in truth, a draw is precisely the outcome I can see in this game too.