Uefa Nations League finals
When the Uefa Nations League was first announced people were very critical of it. They said that it is just another excuse to have international games that don’t mean anything, and that nothing has really changed. This has not been the case. The Uefa Nations League has brought excitement to the last few international breaks. Especially the last one, to see who will make the national league semi-final, who will be relegated to the lower leagues and who will be promoted to the higher leagues.
First let’s discuss the winners of the four group A’s. The teams that have qualified for the semi-finals in June are: Netherlands, Switzerland, Portugal and England. When the groups came out, this was definitely not the teams that most people expected to go through.
Netherlands have had a bad spell in international football and missed the last two major tournaments. However, they have a very good young squad at the moment and overcame France and Germany in a very tough group. They won the group in dramatic fashion. They were 2-0 in the 85th minute and needed a draw to top the group. Then Promes scored, which gave them hope. Van Dijk was placed as a make shift striker and scored the equalizer in the 90th minute which sent the Dutch through.
Belgium were expected to win group 2 easily. They only needed to make sure they didn’t lose by two goals in the final game against Switzerland. After 17 minutes Belgium were 2-0 up and it looked like it would be a comfortable win. Belgium then just lost focus and Switzerland ended up scoring five goals and winning the game 5-2.
Portugal had a slightly easier group but still included Italy and Poland. This group was tight and included three draws out of six games and the remaining games no team won by more than one goal.
England had a very tough group with Spain and the team they lost to in the World Cup semi-final, Croatia. This group was the closest group and before this international break all three teams could have been relegated and all three teams could have gone to the finals. The first game of this round was between Spain and Croatia, with Spain needing a win to confirm their spot. Croatia ended up winning the game in dramatic fashion with a 93rd minute winner. That set up a winner takes all game against England. The game was tight with Croatia taking the lead. However, England scored two goals in the last 12 minutes to secure the top spot. You could see what it meant to England, as the whole teams celebrated Harry Kane’s goal.
All in all, the Uefa Nations League has brought more excitement to these internationals and will be interesting to see how the finals go in June.