Who Is The Favourite In The UEFA Nations League Semi-Finals?

20/11/2018

 

In what has been a short-lived group stage, we already have our semi-finalists for the UEFA Nations League. Despite each team only playing four games in each group, the tournament has been filled with excitement, thrills, heartache and last-minute winners. The four teams that have progressed from League A are the Netherlands, Switzerland, Portugal and England, with the semi-finals scheduled to take place on 5th – 6th June in Portugal. So, who are favourites to win the occasion?

Courtesy of a quick turnaround against Croatia, England booked their spot in the semi-finals by the skin of their teeth, but we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. On the back of a successful World Cup campaign, Gareth Southgate’s side has carried momentum forward and currently stand as the outright favourites for the competition. After an emphatic victory in Spain and Harry Kane’s late winner in the final matchday at Wembley, England upset the odds and finished top-spot in the initially deemed ‘Group of death.’ As things stand, are we officially the best team in Europe?

Another team counting their blessings are the Netherlands, who are heading to Portugal thanks to a 90th minute Virgil Van Dijk volley. It looked at one point as though the Dutch were heading out of the competition, after trailing 2-0 against Germany at half-time. However, since Ronald Koeman took charge of his national team, he has implanted a hard-working attitude into his current squad and the Dutchmen continue to fly. The fixture ended up finishing in a dramatic 2-2 draw, resulting in the World Cup winners France being knocked off top spot in Group 1. Betfred currently has Koeman’s energetic side as England’s closest competitors for the Nation’s title. 

In contrast to both the Netherlands and England, Portugal had secured their place in the semi-finals without even playing all their games. The likes of Andre and Bernardo Silva have been instrumental in Fernando Santos’s dynamic system and the Navigators will be in search of a perfect homecoming. Joining the aforementioned teams will also be the lesser acclaimed Switzerland, who shocked the Group 2 favourites Belgium, with an emphatic 5-2 win over the Red Devils. Haris Sefervoic led the Swiss line in prolific fashion, scoring a hattrick and providing his side a chance to win silverware for the first time in their nation’s history.

A Successful Tournament All-Round

It would be a fair assessment in stating that the UEFA Nations League has been a success, and we’re not just saying this because England have done well. After initial confusion surrounding what the tournament actually is and its format, the introduction of the competition has certainly spiced up the international break. By providing teams with an incentive to play, the Nations League has scrapped that ‘drab friendly feel’ and has forced countries to take their duties a little more seriously.

Through the more consistent fielding of stronger starting XIs, the competition has benefited teams in the long run, as managers have been able to create a closer squad harmony and insert an established style of play. The Nations League may not be visualised in the same light as a World Cup or the Euros, but it has certainly raised the stakes in international football. Just look at the reactions of Van Dijk and Kane’s recent last-minute goals – you will not find similar scenes in pointless friendlies.

Will The Waistcoat Make A Return?

Who will win the golden boot? Who will win the trophy? Or, more importantly, will Southgate bring back his waistcoat? The piece of suiting attire was certainly a highlight of the World Cup and fans will be hoping to see it return next June, or at the very least, the attitude that the waistcoat seemed to ignite amongst his players.

As the saying goes, ‘just like London buses, you wait ages for one and then two come along at once.’ Well, the same can be applied to the English national team as, after failing to reach a semi-final since 1996, fans will be treated to two in the space of just 12 months. Although the World Cup ended in eventual heartbreak for English fans, the competition unified a nation over the love for the game and expect the same to happen next June.

Betfred are currently holding England as the favourites for the tournament and expect some patriotic punters to get behind their beloved national side. There is still plenty of football to be played from now until then, but things are looking up for Southgate and his young lions. Is he the man to guide England to their first major international trophy since 1966?

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