The UEFA Nations League is a brand-new competition, with the first edition to be held this year. The Nations League will include 55 senior men’s national teams of the UEFA member associates. The first tournament is set to take place in September this year and aims to replace most of the international friendly matches. The league is supposed to be much more competitive than friendlies, as the tournament is a large part of the Euro 2020 qualifiers.
The concept of introducing a tournament that will replace international friendlies was debated among UEFA board members for quite some time until it was brought forward in 2013. The UEFA board decided to introduce a new full national team tournament that will help smaller nations qualify for the Euros through an alternative route. The new tournament originally included 54 members before Kosovo joined as the 55th member of UEFA.
The Nations League will tie in with the European Championship qualifiers and give teams another way of qualifying for the tournament. The 55 teams are divided into 4 Leagues (A, B, C, and D), each one consisting of 4 groups with 3 or 4 teams. The high-ranked national teams are pitted against each other in League A, while lower-ranked UEFA members will fight for the top in the lower leagues. The top-ranked teams from the League A groups will play in the Nations League finals, fighting for the title in 2 semi-final matches and a final which will determine the champion.
All the teams will either be promoted to a higher league or relegated to a lower depending on their performance. The group winners will automatically go one league up, while the last team in each group is relegated to a lower division.
The Nations League structure is pretty complex, which is why many experts have criticized it. Still, it gives small nations a great chance of competing for a spot in the Euros and developing new generations of players. Another big plus is that the League will surely make the Euros much more interesting as new and new less glamorous nations take their place in the final tournament.
The top division in the UEFA Nations League (League A) will feature Germany, current World Champions France, and Holland. It’s certainly the most exciting group among the 4 leagues and will surely offer action-packed matches that will leave fans in awe. Considering France’s quality and the tough competition in Holland and Germany, it wouldn’t surprise us if the Nations League winner comes from League A.
Surprisingly, bookies don’t see France as the heavy favourite for the group – as a matter of fact, Germany leads the way with odds of 20/23 (RedZoneSports, SportNation, SportPesa, Letou, Fun88). France is left trailing behind with odds of 6/5, while the Dutch are outsiders in the group with odds of 9/1. This doesn’t reflect the opinion of football experts, who are adamant that after surprisingly missing the World Cup, the new generation of Dutch players will once again make Holland a dominant football force.
In the second group, Belgium is the favourite with odds of 5/14. The World Cup semi-finalists come in front of Switzerland with odds of 11/4 and Iceland at 9/1.
Group C will be pretty interesting to watch, featuring the likes of Italy, Poland, and Portugal. Even though the Portuguese are current European champions, their unimpressive showing at the World Cup has made the Italians the main favourite in the group. Italy is being given odds of 21/20 before Portugal with 6/4 and Poland with 7/2.
The last group in League A features England, Spain, and Croatia and is probably the most exciting one after Group 1. Spain is the favourite to top the group with odds of 5/8 and they’re also the surprising favourite to win the tournament, being given odds of 33/10. England is the second favourite for winning group C, standing at odds of 9/4, while Croatia is last with 5/1 odds.
If you want to place a bet on group matches, all the bookies have them in their offer. The most interesting matches for punters in the first round will surely be the matches between Germany and France (27/20 – Germany, 37/20 – France – RedZoneSports, Fun88, SportPesa, Letou; 13/10 – Germany, 9/5 – France at SportNation), and England – Spain (8/5 – England, 31/20 – Spain at SportNation and RedZoneSports; 33/20 – England, 8/5 – Spain at Fun88, SportPesa, and Letou). All bookmakers are offering a load of markets when it comes to the group stages of the Nations League, so you won’t have any problems finding something you like.
The second division includes 12 teams just like League A, separated into four groups. In the first group, Ukraine is the favourite with odds of 6/4 in front of Slovakia with 8/5 and the Czech Republic with 21/10 (SportNation, RedZoneSports, SportPesa, Letou, Fun88).
In Group 2, Russia is the favourite after enjoying a deep run at the World Cup. Russia is being given odds of 6/4 to win the group. Sweden is the second favourite with odds of 8/5, while Turkey is the outsider with odds of 2/1.
Group 3 features Bosnia, Northern Ireland, and the always dangerous Austria. The Bosnians are favourites with odds of 6/5, Austria is close at 7/5, while Northern Ireland is last with odds of 7/2. The matches in this group will certainly be exciting considering how close the odds for the two first favourites are.
The last group in League B consists of Denmark, Wales, and Ireland, with the Danes being favourites with odds of 20/23. Next comes Wales with 12/5, while the Irish are last with 5/2.
If you prefer match betting over Outright group winners, the Northern Ireland – Bosnia match in the first round of Group 3 should be pretty interesting. You can back Bosnia up at 9/5 (SportNation) or 37/20 (RedZone Sports, Fun88, Letou, SportPesa) or the Northern Ireland team at odds of 29/20 (SportNation) or 6/4 (Fun88, SportPesa, Letou, RedZoneSports).
The first group in League C features Scotland, Israel, and Albania. Scotland is the obvious favourite with odds of 6/4 (RedZoneSports, SportNation, Letou, SportPesa, Fun88), with Albania trailing only slightly at 7/4. Israel is last with odds of 2/1.
Group 2 will feature exciting matches between Greece, Hungary, Finland, and Estonia. The 2004 European Champion Greece tops the list of favourites with odds of 11/10, coming in front of Hungary (8/5), Finland (6/1), and Estonia (9/1).
In Group 3, Norway (19/10) is ahead of the competition which includes Bulgaria (2/1), Slovenia (9/4), and Cyprus (7/1).
The last group consists of rivals Serbia and Montenegro, as well as Lithuania and Romania. The Serbian team is the major favourite for winning Group 4 with odds of 20/21. Romania is just behind them with 5/2, while Montenegro and Lithuania have odds of 16/5 and 14/1 respectively.
The match between Albania and Israel on September 7, 2018, should be interesting for punters. Israel is the underdog in this match – SportNation gives Albania (6/5) the bigger chances of winning than Israel (2/1). The situation isn’t much different at the other bookies – RedZoneSports, SportPesa, Letou, and Fun88 are backing Albania up with odds of 5/4, giving Israel lower chances of winning at 41/20.
The lowest division of the UEFA Nations League features the lowest-ranked teams in Europe. In Group 1, Georgia is the heavy favourite with odds of 10/19 (SportNation, SportPesa, RedZoneSports, Letou, Fun88), ahead of Kazakhstan (3/1), Latvia (9/2), and Andorra (33/1).
In Group 2, Belarus (5/11) is in front of Luxembourg (7/2), Moldova (4/1), and complete outsiders San Marino (80/1).
The heavy favourite in Group 3 is Azerbaijan, with bookies giving the Eurasian country odds of 6/5. Latest UEFA member Kosovo is right behind Azerbaijan with odds of 7/2 and in front of the Faroe Islands (6/1), and Malta 11/1.
The final group consists of Macedonia, Armenia, Gibraltar, and Lichtenstein. The Macedonians are obvious favourites for winning Group 4 with odds of 10/19. Armenia comes second with odds of 7/5, Lichtenstein is third with 28/1, while Gibraltar ranks last with outsider odds of 80/1.