The second edition of the UEFA Nations League will begin from September 3. The league phase will be played out in September, October and November with the finals taking place in 2021. The 55 associate nations were split into four different categories according to their UEFA ratings – 1–16 in League A, 17–32 in League B, 33-48 in League C and 49–55 in League D.
With the international window currently on, all the players across Europe are warming up to represent their nation at the end of a long 2019-20 campaign, impacted heavily due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The first two gameweeks of the UEFA Nations League would also prove to be a warm-up for the players ahead of a gruelling 2020-21 season. Here we take a look at the top five fixtures to keep a keen eye on in the days to come:
GERMANY vs SPAIN
The first gameweek of the second edition of the UEFA Nations League will see a clash of the titans. The last competitive match between these two European giants was in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, which Spain won 1-0 and eventually went on to be crowned World Champions.
Joachim Low has confirmed that he won’t be using the players who were involved in the recently-concluded UEFA Champions League final as they deserve a much-earned rest ahead of the resumption of club football. Thus, players like Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Leroy Sane will be the ones to look out for in the German team.
On the other hand, Luis Enrique has named an exciting young squad. Several uncapped players have earned call-ups to the senior squad like Adama Traore, Ferran Torres, Eric Garcia and Sergio Reguilon, and have a chance to make their national debut in the upcoming week’s UEFA Nations League matches. The team is well-balanced with experienced players in their 30s also featuring for the nation. It’ll be interesting to see how Enrique lines them up for this mega match.
ICELAND vs ENGLAND
This will be a repeat of the 2016 UEFA Euro Round-of-16 clash where Iceland humbled the overwhelming favourites England to reach the quarter-finals of the competition. Much has changed since then and England are a far improved team under the guidance of Gareth Southgate. The three Lions will be out for revenge against the Islanders who are without star players like Gylfi Sigurdsson and Johann Berg Gudmundsson.
Gareth Southgate, meanwhile, has been forced to drop Harry Maguire after he was found guilty of assault in Greece. He has included the Wolverhampton Wanderers’ captain Conor Coady and Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the squad. The team doesn’t have a natural left-back or wing-back and it’ll be interesting to see who takes that position for them.
PORTUGAL vs CROATIA
The winners of the inaugural UEFA Nations League, Portugal will take on the 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia in a much-anticipated match in Porto. Portugal are unbeaten in five meetings with Croatia – four wins followed by a 1-1 draw in the most recent friendly. Ivan Perisic’s goal in that match was Croatia’s first against Portugal.
They have conceded eight in these games and are yet to keep a clean sheet against the UEFA Nations League holders. Croatia will be looking for their first win against the mighty Portuguese with a well-balanced squad at their disposal.
NETHERLANDS vs ITALY
The 2019 UEFA Nations League finalists Netherlands will take on Italy in the second gameweek at Amsterdam. Both these teams are unbeaten in the last five games with Roberto Mancini’s Italian team having a perfect record.
Both these teams missed out on qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and will be hoping to do well in this competition, as it offers them a second chance to book a place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup via the playoffs.
FRANCE vs CROATIA
The repeat of the 2018 FIFA World Cup final will see France taking on Croatia in Saint-Denis. Both of these teams are unbeaten in the last five matches played by them and will meet in the second gameweek of the Nations League.
France have the wood over Croatia as they are unbeaten against them in six matches. This encounter in Group three of League A of the UEFA Nations League promises to be a mouthwatering one. France are the favourites to top this group and this result can have an effect on the eventual outcome.
Read: Journey of Three German Coaches in the 2020 Champions League
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