Nations League: England, Wales and France in danger of relegation, Scotland chasing promotion

by | Sep 21, 2022 | Global Football News | 0 comments


The current international break will see the culmination of the Nations League group stages, meaning promotions, relegations and progression to next summer’s finals will all be secured over the next week.

The action begins on Wednesday when Scotland take on Ukraine at Hampden Park, with matches then taking place every night until Tuesday.

Some of the continent’s biggest sides, including England and France, are close to dropping out of the top league, while Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are also in danger of relegation.

Harry Kane shows his frustration in Budapest

England are bottom of their Nations League group with two matches to play

Scotland have enjoyed a more productive campaign and are in contention for promotion to the top tier, while Denmark and the Netherlands are within touching distance of claiming their places in the final four.

But with three months having passed since the most recent Nations League fixtures, here’s a reminder of the league tables, the games still to be played and what’s at stake over the next seven days.

How does the Nations League work?

France celebrate their UEFA Nations League victory over Spain

Europe’s sides have been divided into four leagues, with A, B and C containing 16 teams and D containing seven. Leagues A, B and C have then been split into four groups of four, while League D has one group of four and one of three.

Teams grouped together are playing each other home and away. The group winners in Leagues B, C and D will be promoted to the next league up, while the teams finishing bottom of their groups in Leagues A, B and C will be relegated to the lower division.

There is no relegation from League D, while the four group winners in League A will progress to the finals, which will be held next summer.

Performance in the Nations League will also be used to determine seeding for Euro 2024 qualifying, with the draw taking place on October 9 and matches being held between March and November 2023.

Teams that fail to reach Euro 2024 through qualifying can still reach the tournament via the play-offs, which are decided by Nations League placings.

The teams that finish highest in their groups – and do not qualify for Euro 2024 at the first attempt – in Leagues A, B and C will be entered into the play-offs, which take place in March 2024.

Each league will have four teams in its play-off section, with semi-finals and finals being played to determine which sides – one from each of Leagues A, B and C – secure a place at Euro 2024.

The final two matchdays will take place during the current international break but, despite the end of the group stage being near, only one team has secured promotion, while none of the relegation places have been decided.

France are the reigning Nations League champions but have already blown their chances of retaining their title after picking up just two points from their first four fixtures.

Didier Deschamps’ world champions lost at home to Denmark and Croatia in June, meaning they cannot top Group A1 and have no chance of reaching next summer’s finals.

The remaining three sides can all still finish first but, realistically, top spot looks to be a two-horse race between current leaders Denmark and second-placed Croatia.

Thursday night will be key to deciding the fate of the four sides. If Denmark win in Zagreb then they will guarantee their status as group winners with a match to spare, while an Austria win in France will consign the hosts to relegation.

Everything is still very much to play for in Group A2, with the only certainty being that Spain cannot be relegated to League B.

Luis Enrique’s side – who finished as runners-up in the previous Nations League – are currently top of the table and will ensure they remain there if they beat bottom-placed Switzerland in Zaragoza on Saturday and then avoid defeat to Portugal on Tuesday.

Portugal are Spain’s nearest challengers, meaning next week’s fixture between the sides in Braga could determine who qualifies for next summer’s finals.

Czech Republic can theoretically still finish top but a battle to finish above Switzerland and avoid relegation seems more likely. The meeting between the two teams in St Gallen on Tuesday is likely to be key.

When A3 was drawn, Hungary quickly appeared to be the favourites to finish bottom of this highly-competitive group, but Marco Rossi’s side have collected seven points from their first four games and currently sit top of the table.

Hungary’s most recent fixture saw them pull off a shock 4-0 win over England at Wembley in June. Their game against Germany in Leipzig on Friday will be crucial, with the winners knowing another victory on the final matchday on Monday will guarantee them a spot in the finals.

Italy are just two points behind Hungary and face them in Budapest next week, meaning the European champions are very much still in contention in Group A3.

The only team that cannot reach the finals are England, who are winless and face a tough task to avoid the ignominy of relegation to League B for the first time.

Defeat to Italy on Friday will confirm relegation for Gareth Southgate’s team, who realistically must win in Milan and at home to Germany on Monday if they want to stay up.

A4 has proven to be the least competitive of the League A groups, with the Netherlands and Belgium in a two-way fight for top spot and Poland and Wales scrapping to avoid relegation.

The former sides currently have the upper hand in both cases, with the Netherlands’ three-point lead at the top of the group meaning four points from their final two matches – away to Poland and at home to Belgium – will be enough to qualify for the finals.

Wales know that winning their final two games – away to Belgium and at home to Poland – will be enough to remain in League A.

That will be easier said than done, however, and Rob Page’s side will be hoping that Poland, who are currently three points clear of Wales, remain in touching distance when they meet in Cardiff on Monday on the final matchday.

The challenge to finish top in Group B1 is still wide open thanks to Ukraine and Scotland – who are currently first and second respectively – having three matches to play during the current international break.

Two of those games are against each other, meaning they are likely to decide which of Ukraine or Scotland are promoted to League A. The fixture in Krakow (Ukraine’s home game has been moved to Poland because of the war) on Tuesday is likely to be the decider.

The Republic of Ireland can still finish top but, given they are three points behind Ukraine and have played a game more, finishing above bottom-placed Armenia and avoiding the drop into League C is their most pressing issue.

Stephen Kenny’s side host Armenia in Dublin on Tuesday, with a win being enough to guarantee safety.

Only two fixtures still need to be played in B2 due to Russia’s disqualification after their invasion of Ukraine but all three remaining sides can still finish top of the group.

Israel will guarantee promotion to League A if they beat Albania on Saturday. However, a win for Albania in Tel Aviv means the winner of their clash with Iceland on Tuesday will go up at the expense of Israel.

If Israel and Albania draw, then Albania will be unable to finish top, but Iceland will do so if they win and score more than once away to Albania.

Russia’s ban means they will automatically be relegated to League C.

Bosnia and Herzegovina are well positioned for promotion to League A and will secure that achievement if they beat Montenegro at home on Friday.

However, a win for Montenegro means they will be able to finish top if they follow that up with a victory at home to Finland on Monday.

Finland can also claim top spot but must take three points at home to Romania and away to Montenegro, while hoping Bosnia and Herzegovina fail to win both their matches, if they are to do so.

Romania are currently bottom of Group B3 and will be relegated if they lose in Finland – who are a point ahead of them – on Friday. A draw or a Romania win means the battle to avoid the drop will go down to the final matchday.

Promotion from Group B4 to League A is a two-horse race between Norway and Serbia, with the former holding a three-point advantage with two matches to go.

If Norway claim four points from their final two games – the second of which is at home to Serbia on Tuesday – then they will secure top spot. But a defeat for Norway in Slovenia on Saturday, coupled with a Serbia win at home to Sweden, means promotion will go to the victor of the match between the top two sides in Oslo.

Relegation may also be decided on the final matchday, when bottom side Slovenia travel to Sweden, who sit one place and one point above their visitors. However, Sweden will guarantee survival if they win both of their remaining matches.

Turkey’s vastly superior goal difference means they essentially need just a single point from their final two games – at home to Luxembourg and away to the Faroe Islands – to secure promotion to League B.

However, Luxembourg still have a faint hope of overhauling Turkey, and will do so if they win in Istanbul on Thursday and at home to Lithuania on Sunday, when they also need Turkey to lose against the Faroe Islands.

Lithuania are on the verge of relegation and will have that status confirmed if they don’t win at home to the Faroe Islands on Thursday. Their dire goal difference means they will likely need to then win in Luxembourg and hope the Faroe Islands lose against Turkey if they are to stay up.

C2 is the only one of the 14 Nations League groups in which promotion has already been decided; Greece will be playing in League B next time around after winning all four of their opening fixtures.

The relegation situation is still up in the air, though, with Northern Ireland in the thick of things. Ian Baraclough’s side have just two points from a possible 12 and only sit above bottom-placed Cyprus on goal difference.

Northern Ireland are likely to stay up if they win both their matches against Kosovo and Greece but would still need Cyprus to drop points against either Greece or Kosovo to be sure.

Kosovo are four points clear of relegation but would be dragged into danger if they lose at Windsor Park on Saturday.

Kazakhstan are in prime position to finish top of Group C3 and will secure a place in League B if they beat bottom-side Belarus at home on Thursday.

Belarus are two points from safety and may need to win both of their matches and hope Azerbaijan drop points if they are to stay up, given they have already played both of their games against the third-placed side.

A win for Slovakia at home to Azerbaijan on Thursday will ensure they cannot be relegated, but they must also beat Belarus in Bucharest on Sunday and hope that Kazakhstan win neither of their remaining fixtures if they want to finish top.

Azerbaijan still have a glimmer of hope when it comes to promotion but must beat Slovakia and Kazakhstan while also hoping the latter lose against Belarus if they are to go up.

Promotion from Group C4 is between Georgia and North Macedonia, who face off in Tbilisi on Friday. Anything other than a win for the visitors is likely to secure top spot for the hosts, who are three points clear in first place and have a far superior goal difference.

Bulgaria and Gibraltar are the only two sides that can be relegated and come head-to-head in Razgrad on Friday night. A win for the home side, who are two points clear of the bottom-placed visitors, will secure survival.

Draws or wins for North Macedonia and Gibraltar in those matches will ensure the battles for promotion and relegation from Group C4 go down to the final matchday on Monday.

Latvia are in pole position for promotion to League C, a fate they can secure simply by avoiding defeat at home to Moldova on Thursday.

Should they lose that game, Latvia will still finish top if they win in Andorra on Sunday.

Moldova must win in Latvia and at home to Liechtenstein, while hoping Latvia also fall to defeat against Andorra, if they are to claim top spot.

A win or a draw for Estonia at home to Malta on Friday will confirm promotion to League C for the hosts.

Estonia can still claim top spot even if they lose to Malta, but would have to beat San Marino – who are guaranteed to finish bottom – on Monday and ensure they finish with a superior goal difference to their rivals.


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