UEFA Nations League: 5 matches you won’t want to miss

By doug mcintyre
FOX Sports Football Writer

the UEFA Nations League resumed on Wednesday, with Scotland hitting Ukraine 3-0 in a rematch of the June World Cup qualifier. But the competition really gets going on Thursday.

As was the case throughout the summer, FOX Sports and FuboTV will broadcast and/or stream matches live across the United States. Unlike those matches, which came at the end of a long and grueling European club season, this month’s games will be played less than two months before the 2022 FIFA World Cup kicks off in Qatar.

For the 13 European countries heading to the World Cup, these Nations League games, which conclude the “league phase” of the 2022-23 competition, with the semi-finals, final and third-place match scheduled for the middle of next year, they take on extra importance, and not just for fans across the pond.

Here are five League A games you won’t want to miss.

September 22: BelgiumWelsh (2:30 ET, FS1/FuboTV)

After three points behind first-place Netherlands in Group 4, Belgium must win this one for a chance of overcoming the Dutch in the final of the league stage on September 25 in Amsterdam for reach the final four.

Even two wins wouldn’t be enough for Wales’ bottom spot, but Gareth Bale & Co. still have plenty to play for this month. They are in a dogfight with Poland, another mid-high national team led by a lone superstar, in the case of Poles’ goal machine Robert Lewandowski not to be relegated to League B for the 2024 Nations League. -25. Poland and Wales meet on September 25 in a duel that will likely determine which team survives.

Wales have ambitions beyond the Nations League, naturally. The 2022 World Cup marks the first the Welsh will take part in in 64 years. For them, preparing for the main event will be as high a priority as anything else this month. The game against Belgium will also be intriguing for American fans, as the US men’s team takes on Wales on November 21 in the first game for both teams in Qatar.

September 23: GermanyHungary (2:30 ET, FS1/FuboTV)

The hottest national team in the world right now is Germany. The four-time World Cup champions enter this one on a 13-game unbeaten run under manager Hansi Flick, who replaced longtime boss Joachim Löw a year ago. Germany’s run has many thinking they could add a fifth title to match Brazil this fall. First, they will have to deal with Hungary.

The Hungarians are not among the European nations that have qualified for Qatar, but they have been giant killers during this Nations League. They’ve beaten England twice over the summer, including a 4-0 thrashing that was the Three Lions’ worst home defeat in nearly a century, and also held Germany to a 1-1 draw.

That match was in Budapest. This one will be played on enemy territory, with Die Mannschaft coming off a 5-2 win over Italy in their last home game, one that was not as close as the scoreline suggests. If Germany play like this again, it could be a long night for the visitors and a preview of what they will be capable of later this year.

24th September: Czech RepublicPortugal (2:30 ET, FS2/FuboTV)

Portugal looked very good in their first three matches in June, taking a point on the road against Iberian rival Spain before rebounding in Lisbon with the Czechs and then Switzerland by a combined score of 6-0.

They then lost the rematch against the Swiss. A victory would have put Cristiano Ronaldo’s team in sole possession of first place and guaranteed safety from relegation. Instead, the Spanish lead Group 2 by one point. Now Portugal really have to beat the Czechs in Prague. They are capable of it; Ronaldo was relegated to a bench role over the summer due to how stacked Fernando Santos’ team is. But as the disappointment in Switzerland showed, they are inconsistent.

Which Portugal will perform on Saturday? If they manage to get all three points, a compelling group-head finish would be set on September 27 to determine whether they or Spain advance.

September 25th: DenmarkFrance (2:30 ET, FS2/FuboTV)

There is a possibility that this will end up being classified as anticlimactic. Do not believe it.

Sure, France, the defending Nations League champion, can’t repeat; With a dismal showing in June, Les Bleus have already squandered any chance of advancing to the final four and will instead try not to be relegated to the second tier on the continent for the next edition of the tournament.

And Denmark, who shocked the world champions 2-1 in Paris in June, can secure a place in the semi-finals with a win in Croatia on Thursday, three days before their rematch with the French in Copenhagen. But beating the 2018 World Cup runners-up at home won’t be easy and, even if the Danes pull it off, it will be fascinating to see how France, who host Austria on Thursday, approach this month’s games.

Les Bleus have a history of smashing outside the World Cup in the group stage after reaching the final of the previous one. They also have one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the sport. How they perform in these next two games, and against the Danes heading to Qatar, seen by some as a dark horse to win the World Cup, will tell us a lot about how they fare when they hit the world stage at the end of the season. of this year.

September 26: EnglandGermany (2:45 ET, FS1/FuboTV)

Like France, England cannot make it to the final four. Like France, they need points just to stay in the top tier. And just like France, the prize they really want is handed out on December 18 in Doha.

England were so terrible over the summer, going 0W-2L-2T in all four of their games, that one wonders if they are grossly overrated heading into the World Cup. It would not be the first time.

On the other hand, it’s probably not wise to draw too many conclusions from those June games. They came on the heels of the busiest English season in history. The players were exhausted. And the reality is that the Nations League does not provide them with the same level of motivation as a World Cup.

With Qatar 2022 now just around the corner, England have everything to play for this month. Veteran manager Gareth Southgate is under pressure. There are places on the World Cup list to win. Facing old foe Germany at London’s Wembley Stadium in their final tune-up is the perfect preparation for what lies ahead. It should tell us exactly where they stand. Surely England will be better this month. They couldn’t be much worse.

Doug McIntyre, one of North America’s leading soccer journalists, has covered the United States men’s and women’s national teams at several FIFA World Cups. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer for ESPN and Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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