UEFA Nations League 2018 Preview: Matchday Five
The new UEFA Nations League may not have quite captured the imagination in the way that the organisers intended but the individual games have been more competitive and it’s been a relief to see a reduction in the amount of tedious international friendlies.
We’re now at matchday five in this season’s competition and this is the point where many issues will be decided. It all gets underway this Thursday with some big teams getting back in action.
Group 2 Favourites
Belgium and Switzerland are locked on six points in Group 2 but it’s the Belgians who have the opportunity to build a lead when they host Iceland on Thursday. Iceland have been impressive in football’s last two major tournaments but they’ve made no inroads in the Nations League, losing all three of their opening matches and scoring just once in that time.
Based on those results, it’s no surprise that Belgium are clear favourites at best odds of just 2/9 with Unibet. The draw is on offer at a top price of 63/10 with MarathonBet while victory for Iceland is way out at 15/1 with SportingBet.
Slump in Form
Croatia have been the surprise package in the early Nations League rounds but not in a good way. The Eastern Europeans reached the final of the World Cup in the summer but after losing heavily to France in Russia, matters have got decidedly worse over in Group 4.
Against Spain in the opening rounds, Croatia were thumped 6-0 and after being held at home by England, there may be little hope for the rematch. Croatia have home advantage on Thursday night but Spain are the favourites at best odds of 15/13 with Unibet. The same bookmaker has the top price on the draw at 27/11 while victory for Croatia is available at a best of 11/4 with Betway.
We move now to Friday’s games and we’ll start with Group 1 as the Netherlands host World Cup winners France. In contrast to Croatia, Dutch football is on the rise and after missing the last two major tournaments, this Netherlands side has started the UEFA Nations League in far more positive fashion.
The Dutch famously beat Germany in this section but they concede favouritism and go into this game as the outside bet at 2/1 with Black Type. France head the market at best odds of 16/11 with Unibet while the draw completes things at a top price of 13/5 with 188Bet.
Titanic Battle in Group 3
The League A sections are completed on Saturday night and here we have Italy as another nation who are looking to bounce back after missing out on qualification for the 2018 World Cup. The Italians have four points from their opening three matches but they currently lag behind leaders Portugal who have a perfect record of two wins from two.
The teams meet on Saturday with Italy playing host and the home side head the market at best odds of 23/10. The draw follows at 11/5 with William Hill while a win for Portugal comes in at a top price of 28/11 with Unibet once again.
Best of the Rest
We’ve mentioned the matches in League A: That’s the top league in this competition but what about the teams who are battling to come up from League B? Once again we have four groups within this section and in three of those groups, we have clear leaders.
Meanwhile, things are much tighter in Group 4 where Wales lead with six points from three games, ahead of Denmark who have four points but have played a game less. Those two teams meet in Cardiff on Friday in a match which should decide the destiny of both countries.
In a result market with odds against prices on all three possible outcomes, Wales are favourites at best odds of 17/10 with Betway. The draw follows at a top price of 21/10 with MarathonBet and 188Bet with a win for Denmark rounding things off at the same best of 21/10 with Unibet.
That is a summary of some of the bigger games over this extended weekend but can we find some winning bets? We’ve focussed on League A for most of this preview and that’s where most of the interest is going to come from on matchday five.
Croatia’s demise is particularly interesting and their fall from grace after such an impressive world cup is a surprising one. Form isn’t necessarily with us here but they haven’t become a bad team overnight and with home advantage against a Spanish side who lost, in Spain, to England last time out, the Croatians look good value at their 11/4 win odds.
In contrast, World Cup winners France have been dominant in Group 1 and they should continue a productive campaign on Friday. Their opponents, the Netherlands, are edging back to their best but the French look too good and while they are the favourites, 16/11 is a decent price.
Like the Dutch, Italy have responded positively to that failure to qualify for Russia 2018 and against Portugal, two strong teams may well cancel each other out. We’ll therefore finish this round up by backing the draw in that one and will hopefully now look forward to a profitable three days of UEFA Nations League action.
- Croatia to beat Spain at 11/4 with Betway
- France to beat the Netherlands at 16/11 with Unibet
- Italy and Portugal to draw at 11/5 with William Hill