2022-23 UEFA Nations League Matchdays 5 and 6 Preview
The final international break before the 2022 World Cup is here and with it brings the conclusion of the 2022-23 UEFA Nations League group stage.
The Nations League is split up into four different leagues based on finishing placement in the previous competition. League A has the best teams and League D has the worst from two years ago. Leagues A, B, and C are made up of four groups, each containing four teams. League D has two groups of four teams.
There are plenty of entertaining and important matches in the battle for promotion in the three lower leagues. This will be focused on the big matches in League A – that is the only league in the Nations League that has a knockout stage among the four group winners.
With it being the final international matches before the World Cup gets started teams will be looking to find their best form to head into Qatar: there won’t be any pre-World Cup friendlies for any European countries.
Let’s have a look at where we stand in the Nations League A through four matches before the action gets underway for the final two matchdays.
Nations League Group A1
- Denmark 3-0-1 (9 points)
- Croatia 2-1-1 (7)
- Austria 1-1-2 (4)
- France 0-2-2 (2)
Matches to watch
Croatia vs Denmark Thursday, Sept. 22
The two teams atop Group A1 face off, with the winner taking control of the group ahead of the final day. In the first meeting, Croatia left Denmark with all three points after Mario Pašalić gave them a 1-0 win. A win for the Danes secures their spot in the Nations League semifinals. It will give them confidence ahead of Qatar knowing that they beat out a team set to be in their group at the World Cup.
Croatia will be led by midfield captain Luka Modrić and forward Ivan Perišić. Through the first four matches, Modrić has one of Croatia’s three goals. Perišić is still waiting to get on the scoresheet. While Croatia relies on their midfield and attack, Denmark only goes as far as goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel can take them. Having allowed only three goals, Schmeichel will look to get his second straight Nations League clean sheet.
Denmark vs France Monday, Sept. 26
The reigning World Cup and Nations League champions France sit bottom of the group. They neared relegation from the Nations League’s top division. Les Bleus are going to be playing a relatively inexperienced team during this set of matches. They will be missing 12 players due to injuries. Among those missing are starting goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, star forward Karim Benzema, and midfielders Paul Pogba and N’golo Kanté.
Following a 2-1 defeat in their first meeting, France will want to show Denmark that they’re not worried about having to face them in Group D of the World Cup. With France missing so many key players, Denmark’s Christian Eriksen will control the pace of play from the midfield.
Nations League Group A2
- Spain 2-2-0 (8 points)
- Portugal 2-1-1 (7)
- Czech Republic 1-1-2 (4)
- Switzerland 1-0-3 (3)
Match to Watch
Portugal vs Spain Tuesday, Sept. 27
Two of the world’s top teams will face off on the final day. The winner will advance to the next round of the Nations League. One of the oldest rivalries in international soccer will see its 40th match between the neighboring nations, with Spain having won 16 times compared to Portugal’s six wins. The last five meetings have been as close as you can get, with all five ending in a draw. Only the 2012 Euro match had a winner, as Spain won on penalties in the semifinal.
Portugal has been relying, as always, on Cristiano Ronaldo to bring them success. He has two goals in this year’s Nations League. He has had some help from defender João Cancelo, who has also scored twice for Portugal. Spain will rely on the expertise of Sergio Busquets in midfield and Álvaro Morata and Pablo Sarabia, Spain’s leading goalscorer in the competition, to lead the attack. Spain and Portugal played to a 1-1 draw on the first day of the Nations League. Morata obtained the goal for Spain before Ricardo Horta equalized in the final 5 minutes.
Nations League Group A3
- Hungary 2-1-1 (7 points)
- Germany 1-3-0 (6)
- Italy 1-2-1 (5)
- England 0-2-2 (2)
Matches to Watch
Italy vs England Friday, Sept. 23
In a rematch of the 2020 Euro Final, Italy and England will go against each other in a bottom-of-the-group clash. Italy didn’t qualify for the World Cup. Expect them to put out a strong side against an England team trying to figure out their World Cup squad. The two played to a 0-0 draw in their other Nations League meeting, but expect goals this time through. Both teams have conceded six or more goals so far in the group.
This Italian side is not as experienced as in the past. Only two players made over 50 caps for Italy. Ciro Immobile has 55 caps while captain Leonardo Bonucci has 116 caps for Gli Azzurri. For England, it is a change in guard as goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was left out of the squad. Pickford has been England’s number one keeper since the 2018 World Cup. He’ll be replaced by either Nick Pope or Aaron Ramsdale.
Besides that, it’s all the familiar names on the England squad. Harry Kane is leading the attack, needing just three more goals to tie Wayne Rooney for the most all-time in an England shirt. Anything less than a win for England will see them be relegated from Nations League A.
England vs Germany Monday, Sept. 26
Another historic rivalry that never seems to disappoint gets a new chapter added when England and Germany meet at Wembley. If Germany can beat surprise group leaders Hungary in their first match this week then a win against England will see them advance to the Nations League semifinals. The Germans have the usual squad but had to replace Marco Reus after he suffered an injury this past weekend in a match for Borussia Dortmund.
Germany has been one of the best goal-scoring teams in the Nations League. Three players scored multiple goals: Jonas Hofmann, Timo Werner, and Joshua Kimmich. Hofmann scored in the reverse fixture before a late penalty by Kane stole a draw for England.
Nations League Group A4
- Netherlands 3-1-0 (10 points)
- Belgium 2-1-1 (7)
- Poland 1-1-2 (4)
- Wales 0-1-3 (1)
Match to Watch
Netherlands vs Belgium Sunday, Sept. 25
The two best teams by far in Nations League Group A4 have been the Netherlands and Belgium. Both teams have been scoring at will with 11 goals for the Netherlands and nine for Belgium. Dutch forward Memphis Depay leads all goalscorers in UEFA Nations League A. He scored three goals, two of which came in a 4-1 beatdown of Belgium in Brussels.
In that match, the Netherlands dominated from kickoff to the final whistle. They conceded a stoppage time goal to Michy Batshuayi. Two of the favorites to make deep runs at the World Cup will have rather strong teams in place for this match. Belgium’s golden generation is coming to an end, but the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard, and Jan Vertonghen are still looking to bring home Belgium’s first major trophy since Olympic gold in 1920.
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