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Ultimate Nations League Guide as SEVEN sides have shot at joining France in the 2021 finals

While Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and the rest of the Premier League’s managers will be glad to see the back of this international break, business is still to be settled with the Nations League reaching its conclusion. 

France secured their spot in the Finals by beating defending champions Portugal courtesy of an N’Golo Kante goal but aside from Didier Deschamps’ men, there are plenty of spots still up for grabs. 

There’s also the dreaded relegation that faces a number of teams and so Sportsmail has broken down the 14 groups to work out what’s still to play for and who to keep an eye on… 

Gareth Bale and Wales are on course for promotion to League A if they avoid defeat to Finland

Germany face a straight shoot-out against Spain for a spot in the Nations League Finals

Germany face a straight shoot-out against Spain for a spot in the Nations League Finals

LEAGUE A

What can still happen?

In short: lots. 

Only France – in Group A3 – have secured passage through to the Nations League Finals and so the final round of games arrives finely poised.

Take Group A1 as an example: Italy, Holland, Poland and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bosnia have been unsurprisingly relegated in such a tricky group but heading into the final matchday, each of the other three hold legitimate opportunities to reach the Finals.

Roberto Mancini’s Italy know they will reach the finals if they beat Bosnia and Herzegovina. Failing that they could make it through if they draw and the Holland do not beat Poland. Failing that, a draw in the other game would see them through. 

Georginio Wijnaldum has impressed for Holland but they are relying on a favour from Bosnia

Georginio Wijnaldum has impressed for Holland but they are relying on a favour from Bosnia

So, truth be told, Italy are in control here. But Holland will reach the finals if they beat Poland and Italy do not beat Bosnia. For Poland they need to beat Holland and get a favour from Bosnia in Sarajevo.

There is less tension and drama in England’s group – Group A2 – after Gareth Southgate’s side were well beaten by Belgium. Now a dead rubber against an already relegated Iceland awaits.

Belgium are in control and will reach the Finals if they avoid defeat against Denmark, the other side who can make the last stage of the tournament. 

A winner takes all scenario at the King Power Stadion At Den Dreef on Wednesday. 

Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portuguese team-mates were left exasperated at having lost to France on Saturday, robbing them a chance to defend their title having secured the runners-up spot in Group A3. 

This quartet is all about relegation – 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia, who host Portugal in Split, will avoid the drop if they manage to pick up more points than Sweden. 

Both sit on three points apiece currently and if they remain level on points, relegation will be determined by overall goal difference – currently level on minus-six – then goals scored, which favours Croatia by four.

Jack Grealish and England have nothing left to play for having been beaten by Belgium

Jack Grealish and England have nothing left to play for having been beaten by Belgium

Then comes Group A4, arguably the pièce de résistance of this latest Nations League campaign.

Nothing settled. All to play for. Two sides fighting for a Finals spot. Two sides head-to-head to avoid relegation. It is set up perfectly.

Germany, who lead the group by a single point, after a Timo Werner-inspired 3-1 win against Ukraine on Saturday, will progress if they can just avoid defeat against Spain.

Luis Enrique’s side looked out of sorts against Switzerland but have genuine world class stars in their ranks. They know victory over Germany will make up for the hiccups to date.

On the flip side comes the dreaded relegation for two sides who expected to be in this position when the make-up of the groups became clear.

Ukraine will be relegated if they lose to Switzerland 1-0, 2-1 or by a margin of two goals or more.

Switzerland need to win by the same margins or their days in League A, for now at least, would be over.

Luis Enrique knows if Spain overcome Germany then his side will book a spot in the Finals

Luis Enrique knows if Spain overcome Germany then his side will book a spot in the Finals

Who to keep an eye on? 

The top tier, the stars on show, there is no shortage of ones to watch.

Germany is full of Premier League talent with Chelsea fans no doubt strapping themselves in to see what could well be another Werner masterclass. 

The emerging superstar in Germany’s ranks is Serge Gnabry and starting at centre forward against Ukraine, the Bayern Munich attacker once again looked a cut above.

Then there’s Spain, the side in Germany’s way for a spot in the Finals. 

Enrique’s side have had trouble scoring goals – something he insisted is NOT a problem – but he needs big performances from Mikel Oyarzabal and Ferran Torres on the wings if he is to go toe to toe with Germany’s fearsome attack.  

LEAGUE B 

What can still happen?

A group thrown into chaos because of coronavirus, two home nations chasing promotion and a very complicated three-way fight between Russia, Hungary and Turkey for top spot.

While there are no prizes to reach the Finals here like there is in League A, there is the carrot dangling of a place in the top leagues next time round.

Let’s start with Group B1, a group in disarray due to a coronavirus outbreak in the Norwegian national team.

Norway, who sit second, were blocked from travelling to Romania for the final game and so the fixture, naturally, cannot go ahead.  

‘The matter will now be submitted to the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body, for a decision to be taken in accordance with the special rules applicable to UEFA National Team competition matches, as approved by the UEFA Executive Committee on 29 August 2020,’ a statement read.

Erling Haaland is not to be involved as Norway fight to save their Nations League campaign

Erling Haaland is not to be involved as Norway fight to save their Nations League campaign

Now, this is significant because propping up this group right now is Northern Ireland. They only have Romania left to play but with three points already separating them, a walkover win for Romania against Norway would make any final game redundant for Northern Ireland.

But, fear not, relegation could actually bring some positives. Competing in League C may well make it significantly easier for Northern Ireland to make Euro 2024 – as Scotland found this time round. As a relegated side they would likely enter the draw as top seeds and so in theory would be favourites for group victory.

Talking of Scotland, let’s go to Group B2. Steve Clarke’s side will be promoted if they beat Israel or if the Czech Republic do not beat Slovakia, who beat Scotland over the weekend.

Czech Republic can still be promoted but their chances are slimmer given they need to beat Slovakia and hope Scotland do not beat Israel.

Israel and Slovakia battle relegation.

Now things get tasty in Group B3. Four teams, three in line for promotion. 

2018 World Cup hosts Russia, who sit top, can secure promotion if they beat Serbia or if they draw and the other game ends in a stalemate.

Steve Clarke has guided Scotland to Euro 2020 and is now looking to add a promotion as well

Steve Clarke has guided Scotland to Euro 2020 and is now looking to add a promotion as well

Hungary are next in line to be promoted but they must beat Turkey and hope Russia do not beat Serbia.

Turkey can be both promoted and relegated in a dramatic final round. Serbia are the other candidates to be relegated unless they beat Russia and Turkey lose to Hungary.

Last, but by no means least, two home nations with very different prospects round out Group B4.

Let’s start off with the good. Wales have it all in their hands and know they will be promoted if they can simply avoid defeat against Finland.

Alternatively, Finland will be promoted if they beat Wales in a winner-takes-all clash in Cardiff.

At the other end you find the Republic of Ireland and while third in the group they will be relegated if they lose to Bulgaria at the Aviva Stadium.  

Wales are brimming right now with young talent such as midfielder Ethan Ampadu (middle)

Wales are brimming right now with young talent such as midfielder Ethan Ampadu (middle)

Who to keep an eye on? 

The easy answer would be Haaland with Norway taking on Austria but given he is not involved due to a row over the virus outbreak, Wales should be the side with the young players thriving.

David Brooks, Ethan Ampadu, Rhys Norrington-Davis and Neco Williams all started the win over the Republic of Ireland and the future looks bright for Ryan Giggs’ side.

Finland is a different test but one this youthful Wales side will be confident of navigating and gone are the days of Gareth Bale plus the rest.  

LEAGUE C

What can still happen?

No home nations to speak of here but there are plenty of permutations when it comes to promotion and relegation.

Take Group C1 as an example. Montenegro and Luxembourg can both still win promotion. 

Montenegro have it in their hands and will be promoted if they beat Cyprus, if both games are drawn, or if Luxembourg lose to Azerbaijan.

North Macedonia are thriving right now and are looking to add to their Euros qualification

North Macedonia are thriving right now and are looking to add to their Euros qualification

Luxembourg need a slip up and then it could get interesting. 

Cyprus will go into the relegation play-outs unless they can spring a surprise and beat Montenegro. If that happens and Azerbaijan do not beat Luxembourg, they are safe.

It was quite a story, North Macedonia qualifying for their first-ever major football tournament by reaching Euro 2020.

Now their good feeling could extend to promotion as they top Group C2. 

If they can avoid defeat against Armenia they are up. Victory for Armenia and they will win promotion.

Georgia cannot be promoted or relegated and Estonia are already heading into the relegation play-outs. All eyes on the main game of the group, then.

Onto Group C3 where you find Kosovo, Moldova, Greece and Slovenia.

Kazakhstan need something close to a miracle to avoid dropping into the relegation play-outs

Kazakhstan need something close to a miracle to avoid dropping into the relegation play-outs

This comes down to two games to settle two spots. Greece face Slovenia for the right to be promoted. Kosovo face Moldova with the loser going into the relegation play-outs. 

In both instances, winner takes all.   

Lastly there is Group C4 where Belarus will be promoted if they avoid defeat against Albania, who need to win to lift themselves to top spot.  

Kazakhstan are all set to go into the relegation play-outs unless they can beat Lithuania.

Who to keep an eye on? 

West Ham fans, remember Sead Hakšabanović? The 21-year-old is the bright young thing in a Montenegro side brimming with veterans.

It would take a very switched on Hammers fan to remember him given he never played for the club after arriving in a  £2.7million transfer from Halmstad. He signed a five-year deal. 

Anyway, he’s now catching the eye in a Montenegro side that is on the cusp of a spot in League B.

The one that got away?  

LEAGUE D  

What can still happen?

The game is up for Latvia and Andorra as neither can be promoted from D1 and so the fight falls between Faroe Islands and Malta.  

Faroe Islands will be promoted unless they lose to Malta 1-0, 2-1, or by a margin of two goals or more. 

In Group D2 it’s a straight shootout between Gibraltar and Liechtenstein 

Gibraltar will be promoted if they avoid defeat by Liechtenstein. 

San Marino already know they will finish third.

Faroe Islands are in control of Group D1 and will be promoted if they navigate past Malta

Faroe Islands are in control of Group D1 and will be promoted if they navigate past Malta

Who to keep an eye on?  

Malta have a real shot of promotion and a lot of attention has been paid to 22-year-old midfielder Matthew Guillaumier and 24-year-old winger Jurgen Degabriele.

Admittedly this low down the groups the scouts tend to scatter out but if Malta can get one over the Faroe Islands then it is likely the young guns who stand out. 

Elsewhere, experience pays for Faroe Islands as 30-year-old Klaemint Olsen leads the line. He scored twice against Andorra and will be full of confidence. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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