UEFA Nations League: Betting Picks & Predictions

The newly minted Nations League is the latest brainchild of UEFA, and it aims to turn meaningless international friendlies into a four-tier competition (separated into Leagues A, B, C, & D) that includes all 55 UEFA nations. The inaugural tournament kicks off in September 2018, after the World Cup.

For League A, which consists of the 12 top-ranked countries, there’s another international trophy up for grabs. For the three lower leagues, there’s a promotion/relegation system with qualification spots for the 2020 Euro on the line.

The groups for all the leagues were drawn on Wednesday. Most of the attention is rightly focused on the  League A teams, who are competing for the overall title. Let’s run through each of the four groups in the top flight, looking at who is most likely to walk away with the inaugural trophy and who is the best value in the field based on the early odds.

Harry Kane marked by Laurent Koscielny.
England’s Harry Kane marked by France’s Laurent Koscielny. (Photo credit: Ben Sutherland (Flickr) CC License)

Group 1

Germany

  • Odds to win Group 1: 9/11
  • Odds to win the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League: 4/1

France

  • Odds to win Group 1: 3/2
  • Odds to win the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League: 5/1

Netherlands

  • Odds to win Group 1: 19/1
  • Odds to win the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League: 50/1

Betting tips: It’s ridiculous that France, a favorite for Russia 2018, are ranked fifth in UEFA and were placed in Pot 2 for the draw. But here we are. Germany and France, the two European favorites for the upcoming World Cup, will square off in the group stage of the Nations League.

Naturally, Germany are the favorites to win the group. They easily won the Confederations Cup last year with their B team and will head to Russia as the European front-runner. France will undoubtedly pose a challenge to the Germans. The young French squad recently held their Northern neighbours to a 2-2 draw in Cologne. As for the Netherlands, they failed to qualify for Russia and will probably crash out of the Nations League group stage, as well, given their competition.

Since only the group winner advances to the knockout stages, neither Germany nor France are the favorite to win the Nations League outright. So if you’re looking to pick either nation, an early bet will yield a nice payout.

Group 2

Belgium

  • Odds to win Group 2: 3/7
  • Odds to win the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League: 11/2

Switzerland

  • Odds to win Group 2: 4/1
  • Odds to win the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League: 33/1

Iceland

  • Odds to win Group 2: 9/1
  • Odds to win the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League: 80/1

Belgium have been blessed with a pretty easy group. Switzerland had some impressive moments during the World Cup qualifiers, but their national team ultimately pales in comparison to the Belgian squad. Iceland can’t be dismissed after their impressive results at the 2016 Euro and World Cup qualifiers, but as always, the tiny nation of just 334,000 is a heavy underdog.

Placing Belgium at 11/2 odds to win the whole is is a little too generous. They’re expected to advance to the knockout rounds, but their recent track record against the top European teams leaves a lot to be desired.

Group 3

Portugal

  • Odds to win Group 3: 3/2
  • Odds to win the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League: 14/1

Italy

  • Odds to win Group 3: 9/11
  • Odds to win the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League: 9/1

Poland

  • Odds to win Group 3: 19/1
  • Odds to win the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League: 40/1

An unfortunate mix of bad luck and poor performances saw Italy fail to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in over half a century. Nevertheless, the bookmakers have placed them ahead of Portugal. There’s no denying that the Portugal national team has been shaky these last few years, but they somehow manage to keep coming up with impressive results, including a European title in 2016.

The Italian national team is in a state of disarray. They’re currently without a head coach and will probably stay that way for the next few months. If Antonio Conte ends up getting the job, then there’s reason to be hopeful for the Azzurri. Until then, hold off on picking them.

There’s value in picking Portugal here. Despite their relatively weak, Ronaldo-dependent line-up, they’re doing something right.

Group 4

Spain

  • Odds to win Group 4: 3/7
  • Odds to win the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League: 7/2

England

  • Odds to win Group 4: 4/1
  • Odds to win the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League: 12/1

Croatia

  • Odds to win Group 4: 9/1
  • Odds to win the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League: 20/1

Spain open as the favorites to win the Nations League. That’s in part due to the quality of the Spanish squad, but mostly it’s because France and Germany are locked in the same group. Spain did well to finish above Italy in their World Cup qualification group and have an interesting mix of aging veterans and promising young talent within their team.

There’s a lot of talent within the English ranks, as well, but will that translate to Nations League success? If their recent performances are any indication, the answer is an emphatic no. England have made a habit of choking and underperforming; betting on them to win international competitions has been a fool’s errand since about 1966.