The inaugural Nations League comes to its conclusion this week with four countries battling it out to be the first to have their name engraved on the trophy.
Hosts Portugal face Switzerland in the first semi-final while the Netherlands face England 24 hours later for a place in Sunday’s final, while the two losers from the semi-finals play each other in the third-place play-off.
If the games are level at 90 minutes, extra-time will be needed. Charlie Mullan assesses the four nations hoping to be the first ever Nations League champions.
Portugal to beat Switzerland and BTTS
Cristiano Ronaldo was allowed to forego Portugal’s four matches to get to the finals and his return has helped make the hosts joint favourites along with England with SportPesa at 9/5. The mercurial forward should boost a side that was the lowest scoring of the four nations remaining with just five goals netted in their home and away ties with Italy and Poland. Fernando Santos’ side have been slow starters with no goals scored before the 31st minute. Portugal (20/31) are the only finalists not to lose a game in the build-up to this week with two wins and two draws.
Switzerland (9/2) have entertained their way to the finals with their four matches producing a total of 19 goals – 14 of which were scored by the Swiss. After a 6-0 win in their opener against Iceland they lost 2-1 at Belgium. A 2-1 victory at Iceland was followed by a resounding 5-2 win over the Belgians coming from 2-0 down to do so. Of the 14 goals Switzerland have scored, nine have come in the second half. Both teams have scored in the last three games involving Vladimir Petkovic’s side and SportPesa are offering odds of 19/2 for Switzerland to win with both teams scoring while Portugal are 13/5 to win with goals for both nations. A score draw is trading at 15/4.
The last five meetings between the two countries have failed to produce three goals or more with the last three games ending 2-0. Portugal to win 2-0 is on the market at 6/1 and to win with under 2.5 goals is 5/2 while Switzerland to win 2-0 is 25/1 and they are 35/4 to win with less than 2.5 goals scored in 90 minutes. It’s no surprise to see Ronaldo at the top of the goalscoring market at 11/5 to score the game’s first goal and 2/3 to be an anytime scorer. Bernardo Silva, who won the domestic treble with Manchester City, will be keen to add a fourth honour to end his impressive season and he is 8/1 to be the first scorer and 13/5 to be anytime scorer.
Haris Seferovic goes into the finals week on five goals, one behind Nations League leading scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic. Seferovic is a generous 15/2 to open the scoring and 5/2 to be anytime scorer. Xherdan Shaqiri picked up a Champions League winners’ medal last weekend as an unused substitute in Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Tottenham in Madrid. Shaqiri is 9/1 to score the first goal and 3/1 to be an anytime scorer. Portugal, with home advantage, are 1/3 to qualify for Sunday’s final while Switzerland are 11/5 to reach the final.
England to beat Holland by a one-goal margin
After reaching the semi-finals of last summer’s World Cup, England supporters expect football to come home this time – 12 months later than originally planned. Victory in the Nations League will give them plenty of confidence ahead of next summer’s European Champions where the final will be played at Wembley.
Eight of Gareth Southgate’s squad featured in the finals of Europe’s two elite competitions last week. Tottenham’s Danny Rose and Harry Kane, and Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold all played the full Champions League final while Dele Alli playing 82 minutes for Spurs before being substituted. Two of Holland’s squad played important roles for Liverpool in their success in Madrid with Virgil van Dijk playing 90 minutes while team-mate Georginio Wijnaldum was replaced after 62 minutes by James Milner.
Holland’s qualification for the finals was less than straightforward. Following an opening 2-1 defeat in France, the Dutch (39/20) got up and running with 3-0 and 2-0 home wins over Germany and the French, respectively. In their final game, they were 2-0 down after 20 minutes in Germany, but two goals in the last five minutes gave them the point they needed to finish top of their group of goal difference ahead of France. England (7/5) also lost their opener 2-1 at home to Spain, and after a goalless draw in Croatia, their passage to the finals looked slim. But wins at Spain and at home to Croatia saw them finish top of their group, one point clear of Spain.
Holland’s two wins have been to nil and they are 7/2 to win to nil for the third time. Of the 12 goals scored in Holland’s four Nations League games so far, six have been scored in the 75th minute or later. SportPesa are offering odds of 11/10 to be netted between the 76th and 90th minute.
The last time we saw a Dutch club side play an English club side, we were treated to a thriller as Tottenham came from 2-0 down to beat Ajax 3-2 to book their place in the Champions League final. Four Ajax players have been named in Ronald Koeman’s initial squad while Southgate has four Spurs players to call upon. Another five-goal thriller is available at 23/4.
England’s two wins have been by the slimmest of margins and they are 53/20 to win by a one-goal margin while Holland are 33/10 to win by the slimmest of margins. Both teams to score and over 2.5 goals has happened in three of the four matches England have played to get to this stage of the competition and it has also happened in three of their last four encounters with Holland. England are 7/2 to win with both nations finding the net while the Dutch are 9/2 to win with both teams scoring. A score draw is trading at 59/20.
In the goalscorer market, Harry Kane leads the way at 15/4 to score the first goal. Kane who missed Tottenham’s last eight games before returning from an ankle injury for the Champions League final, is 6/5 to be an anytime scorer. Raheem Sterling who had a goal taken off him to be denied a hat-trick for Manchester City in their 6-0 FA Cup final win, is 11/2 to open the scoring and 7/4 to be anytime scorer.
For the Dutch, former Manchester United forward Memphis Depay leads the way at 5/1 to be the first scorer and 8/5 to net anytime in the 90 minutes. Ryan Babel, who spent four seasons at Liverpool, ended the season in good form scoring five goals in 14 league games for relegated Fulham, and he is 15/2 to break the deadlock and 5/2 to be an anytime scorer. Holland are 1/1 to reach Sunday’s final while England are 20/27 to book their place in the final which will be played at Porto’s Estadio do Dragao ground.
A £5 bet on the above selections has potential returns of £65.70.
Odds to win Nations League: 9/5 England, Portugal, 3/1 Netherlands, 13/2 Switzerland
(All bets within 90 minutes)