By News Team
2nd September 2020
After Portugal won the inaugural Nations League last time out, UEFA’s newest international competition returns this week, with its first round of fixtures starting from Thursday.
Ahead of its opening, we’ve taken a look at two of the key ties to watch out for.
England out for revenge against Iceland
Iceland 2-1 England is a result that will live long in the memory of Three Lions fans for all the wrong reasons; arguably England’s worst major tournament result in recent history as they crashed out of Euro 2016 at the last-16 stage following an insipid display.
Four years on and the two sides meet for the first time since that fateful night in Nice, this time in their opening fixture of the Nations League on Saturday. England, now under the guidance of Gareth Southgate, are a completely different team since then, one full of youth and excitement, evidenced by the maiden call-ups for Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden for this fixture.
For that reason, England are the favourites for victory on Saturday, priced at 24/100 for the win, with Iceland at 12/1 and the draw 17/4. Southgate’s England side made it to the semi-finals of the Nations League last time around and will be keen to go all the way this year as they prepare for next summer’s Euro 2021. The Three Lions haven’t played since November 2019 so Southgate will also be eager to see his players hit the ground running here.
When England play, captain Harry Kane usually scores, having netted 32 goals for his country in just 45 appearances. That record coupled with a strong finish to last season with Spurs, where he netted five goals in three games, suggests he could be the man to back at 12/5 to open the scoring. Southgate may well choose to offer some fringe players an opportunity, though, and Greenwood and Danny Ings are 7/2 and 11/4 respectively to break the deadlock.
Incidentally, the Iceland player who sealed England’s fate back at Euro 2016, Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, is 19/5 to score anytime on Saturday, if you fancy him to haunt the Three Lions once again.
European heavyweights collide
But before that, we’re in for a real treat on Thursday as two European heavyweights collide as Germany take on Spain in the Nations League. With just one loss from a combined 18 matches between them in European Championship qualifying, both sides have been in great form and this could be a spectacular opening to the competition.
The hosts Germany (7/5) won seven of their eight matches in Group C of the Euro 2021 qualifiers, putting 30 goals past the other four countries in their group. Coach Joachim Löw has a plethora of attacking talent at his disposal, namely Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, who, if the rumours are to be believed, could soon be team-mates at Chelsea as well as for Germany. Werner has scored 11 times in 29 appearances for the national side and he is 7/2 to score first against the Spaniards, while he is 23/20 to score at anytime.
Spain (9/5), meanwhile, were similarly impressive in their group. They were unbeaten in their 10 matches and conceded just five goals in that time, thanks largely to their brilliant captain Sergio Ramos, who continues to excel despite his advancing years. Although many of their former stars like David Silva have moved on, this is still a side blessed with bundles of talent and they are a match for anyone at their best.
Leeds fans will be looking forward to seeing their club-record signing Rodrigo, who boasts an impressive recent record for his national side. He scored four times in seven appearances in the European qualifiers and will likely lead the line again here. He could be the one to open the scoring at 5/1, while he’s available at 90/1 if you fancy him for a memorable night by scoring a hat-trick.