By: Aeden Evenson-McDermott
In the international break, Europe’s best came together to represent their national teams. It would be the final meeting of the teams in preparation before the World Cup starts in early November. Nations League includes Europe’s senior men’s teams which compete in a biennial international competition.
On the final wrap up of the group stages, the highly anticipated action kicked off starting in Group A1 for the top spot with Croatia battling Austria and Denmark against France.
Croatia had previously beat Denmark a few days before, thus earning the top spot and tiebreaker over Denmark by 1 point. Croatia would have to beat Austria in order to get in and the result with Denmark wouldn’t matter if Croatia was able to hold on.
France went down and lost to Denmark 2-0 and Croatia held on to beat Austria 3-1. Croatia won the group with a total of 13 points, 2nd Denmark with 12, 3rd France with 5, and Austria getting relegated with 4 points.
Spain and Portugal met in their final match to decide the winner for A2. Switzerland and Czech Republic had been eliminated as they did not finish with enough points. Czech Republic saw themselves relegated on the final match day too. Spain got the last minute winner over Portugal to advance to the finals.
In Group A3, Italy and Hungary faced off in their decisive match. Italy held off an on point form of Hungary to win the group. Surprisingly, England and Germany both fell through and England was relegated.
In the final group, A4, it would be either Netherlands and Belgium to finalize the 4th team for the finals. Netherlands and Belgium would each have to win in order to eliminate the other one. A strong header by Virgil Van Dijk sent Netherlands to the final in last quarter of an hour in the game. Poland and Wales would be eliminated and Wales would be relegated.
In the 4 tiers of Group B, Scotland would win promotion in the group over Ukraine, and Ireland with Armenia being relegated. Israel would win promotion over Iceland, Albania, and Russia would be relegated and suspended in the competition. Bosnia and Herzegovina would escape Finland to earn the top spot and receive promotion with Montenegro and Romania being eliminated. Serbia would beat both Norway and Slovenia to earn promotion with Sweden seeing relegation.
In the 4 tiers of Group C, Turkey would win promotion with Luxembourg, Faroe Islands, and Lithuania being eliminated. Greece would gain promotion, which would eliminate Kosovo, Northern Ireland, and Cyprus. Kazakhstan would gain promotion leaving Azerbaijan, Slovakia, and Belarus eliminated. Georgia would win promotion with Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Gibraltar getting eliminated.
In the 2 tiers of Group D, Latvia and Estonia would see promotion while Moldova, Andorra, and Malta would be eliminated and Liechtenstein and San Marino would be relegated.
Overall, it was a very exciting group stage of UEFA Nations league. Teams had surprises and made big steps in improvement. Promotion to the group above was the goal for most, but some unfortunate saw relegation to a bottom tier below them.
Croatia, Netherlands, Italy, and Spain will be going to the finals which will take place in the summer of 2023 on June 14-15th. The upcoming draw for how the other tiers will be drawn will take place at another point in time in the near future!