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SBOTOP
08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 1:04 PM (18 days ago)
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UEFA Nations League: Europe’s Finest in Pre-Season Extravaganza!

Domestic football is just around the corner folks, with Europe’s big leagues ready to serve up another feast of football and we’ll be right here with all the news, action, and results as they roll in.

But before all that we have a superb appetiser when the second UEFA Nations League kicks off in just over a week’s time.

The Inaugural competition was a superb success, culminating in a showcase final when a Gonzalo Guedes strike gave Portugal a win on home soil to win the 2019 trophy, and they will begin the defence of their crown on 5th September with a tough test against Croatia.

All four leagues from A to D have thrown up some competitive fixtures in the opening rounds and the big name nations in particular will draw huge television audiences, but which clash is the pick?

Today, SBOTOP picks the matches to watch out for.

Germany vs Spain

There are plenty to choose from and the opener in Group A4 has a great claim, when Germany meets Spain on 3rd September.

Joachim Low is rebuilding a strong Germany team after a poor performance at the Russia 2018 World Cup, and the FC Bayern trio of Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Serge Gnabry are likely to feature strongly in his plans for Euro 2021.

Winger Leroy Sane, who has recently switched from Manchester City to FC Bayern, will be hoping to rejuvenate his career after an injury hit season, while Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz is sure to have a big international career ahead of him.

Luis Enrique’s Spain is packed with experience. They are led by the formidable Sergio Ramos and they will have high hopes for the Nations League. And we could see a glimpse of Barcelona wonderkid Ansu Fati, the future of Spain’s attack.

Netherlands vs Poland

On Friday 4th September, runners-up the Netherlands kick off their campaign in Group A1 with a match against Poland.

The best striker in European football will come face-to-face with the best centre-back pairing as Poland’s Robert Lewandowski will try to get the better of Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt.

Lewandowski has had another prolific season, winning the Bundesliga Golden Boot while scoring 15 goals in Bayern’s successful Champions League campaign. But he’ll have to be at his best to beat the Oranje back line.

The UEFA Nations League 2020 results from Saturday 5th of September will be well worth looking out for as some of the best sides in world football begin their campaigns.

Iceland vs England

The first of four mouthwatering clashes is the meeting of two old foes when Iceland hosts England in their opening Group A2 game.

The Three Lions were humiliated when the Icemen dumped them out of the 2016 European Championships with a 2-1 defeat in the Round of 16.

Since then, England head coach Gareth Southgate has built a young and exciting team which came close at Russia 2018, losing in a semi-final to Croatia, and finished third in the Nations League last time round.

Southgate has a couple of off-field problems to deal with.

Centre-back Harry Maguire is helping Greek police with their inquiries after an altercation while he was on holiday.

Meanwhile, Manchester City attacker Raheem Sterling may have to self-isolate after attending a party with sprint legend Usain Bolt, who recently tested positive for COVID-19.

Denmark vs Belgium

On the same day, Denmark have a very difficult opening match against Belgium.

The Red Devils are still top of the FIFA World Rankings, with World Champions France second and England in fourth.

And it’s about time the Golden Generation won something. Head coach Roberto Martinez has a group oozing with talent, led by Kevin de Bruyne, the Hazard brothers in Eden and Thorgan, and striker Romelu Lukaku who has enjoyed a superb first season in Serie A with Inter Milan.

Lukaku’s teammate Christian Eriksen is Denmark’s best creative player and a match-winner on his day.

Sweden vs France

Can Kylian Mbappe bring glory for France once again in UEFA Nations League?

Kylian Mbappe played a key role in France’s success in 2018 World Cup

Group A3 sees an opening clash between Sweden vs France.

The UEFA Nations League 2020 betting odds will have Les Bleus as favourites, with Belgium, England, and the Netherlands all in the hunt.

Paris Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappe took Russia 2018 by storm, scoring France’s fourth goal in their final victory over Croatia. At still only 21 years of age, he has the football world at his feet.

Portugal vs Croatia

And to round off an incredible day of international football, Nations League holders Portugal take on World Cup finalists Croatia.

Having two creative players in Cristiano Ronaldo vs Luka Modric, it is not a bad end to the weekend!

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08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 1:08 PM (18 days ago)            #2
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UEFA Nations League: Finland Test For Ryan Giggs’ Wales

Finland vs Wales

Wales head to Finland for their UEFA Nations League opener on Thursday in the competitive Group B4.

Promotion to League A is the target, and with Bulgaria and the Republic of Ireland making up the four, this is a tight group to call.

So Wales head coach Ryan Giggs will be desperate to open up with a win, but he has his work cut out against a Finland team on the up and with quality at either end of the pitch.

Finland boss Markku Kanerva has overseen a resurgence in the national side, taking them up to 58th in the FIFA World Rankings, 35 places below Wales who are currently in 23rd.

But with the hosts in the ascendancy, the UEFA Nations League 2020 betting odds point to a tough night for Giggs’ men.

Talking Points

Finland breaking new ground

UEFA Nations League: Teemu Pukki is currently Finland's top scorer

Teemu Pukki during Finland’s match against Greece

Kanerva’s Finland made history last November by qualifying for Euro 2021, finishing second to Italy in their qualifying group J.

It’s the first time this small Scandinavian nation has qualified for a major tournament and Bayer Leverkusen keeper Lukas Hradecky said that November 15th is a day that should go down in history.

“This could be a date for a national holiday in my opinion,” he said. “We made our dreams come true, plenty of people share that thought with us.”

While Hradecky keeps the goals out at one end of the pitch, Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki slams them in at the other end and he scored two as Finland qualified with a 3-0 win over Liechtenstein, finishing in a comfortable second place.

That ended a run of 32 failed qualifying campaigns and sparked wild celebrations in Helsinki.

Pukki scored nine goals in nine games in the campaign, taking his tally to 25 from 80 internationals and he will be Finland’s biggest threat against Wales and the Republic of Ireland three days later.

Kanerva won 59 caps for Finland as a central defender while scoring one goal. But since his appointment as head coach in 2016, he has taken his nation to new heights.

Depleted Wales squad is reliant on Bale

He’s been the go-to man for the Welsh Dragons for a decade and Real Madrid’s Gareth Bales will have a lot on his shoulders when Wales head to Finland.

Giggs has been hit by the news that four of his squad have pulled out, including influential midfielder Aaron Ramsay.

The Juve man is injured, as is highly-rated Bournemouth winger David Brooks, who has been out for most of the domestic season with an ankle injury. Defender Ashley Williams and Leeds United striker Tyler Roberts are also sidelined alongside Joe Allen.

Giggs has called up Liverpool youngster Ben Woodburn while striker Hal Robson-Kanu returns to the squad following a three-year absence.

Bale needs one of those special nights.

Real Madrid are still wondering what to do with their man having left him out of the their Champions League squad for a crunch tie with Manchester City.

But that doesn’t worry Giggs who is used to dealing with his star when he can’t get a game for Los Blancos.

It’s Wales’ first game since qualifying for Euro 2021 and Bale should be right up for this match. He is likely to make headlines in the upcoming UEFA Nations League 2020 news and Wales fans will be praying they are all positive!

History

Finland have never qualified for a World Cup. But as well as making the finals of the European Championship for the first time, they were promoted from Group C of the inaugural UEFA Nations League.

After a long absence from finals football, Wales reached the semifinals of Euro 2016 and have qualified again for the 2021 tournament, beating Hungary 2-0 in their final deciding game.

Of the nine meetings between these two since 1971, Wales have won four to Finland’s two and there have been three draws, but Finland have had the better of recent clashes.

The Finns won both their victories the last time the teams met competitively back in the 2009 World Cup qualifiers — 2-1 at home and 0-2 in Wales — and they are unbeaten in the last four meetings.

Betting Tip

??

Finland vs Wales 1X2 Draw @ 3.05
September 4, 2:45 (GMT+8)

Finland are at 2.97 to win this game while Wales are at 2.32. The Dragons have the biggest star in Wales, but Finland have quality too and will put up a good fight.

At odds of 4.85, 1-1 is the most likely result and I wouldn’t be surprised to see both Bale and Pukki on the score sheet.

There’s more to come for SBOTOP Nations League fans over the next two weeks with all four leagues underway.

And for a kick-off, this Group B match has plenty to keep us entertained.

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08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 1:13 PM (18 days ago)            #3
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UEFA Nations League: When Two Giants Collide

Germany vs Spain

They have each won the European Championship three times, they are traditionally two of the favourites whenever a major international tournament begins, and they have a history.

When two giants like Germany and Spain collide, the world tends to watch and this UEFA Nations League clash in the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Stuttgart should be no different.

But with two much-changed squads, can we expect UEFA Nations League 2020 highlights of the quality these two proud footballing nations would usually provide?

Talking Points

Both certainly have incentives to improve.

Germany suffered the embarrassment of a group stage exit at the 2018 World Cup and their form has been mixed ever since, including defeats to Holland in both the UEFA Nations League and Euro 2020 qualifiers.

Not only do they face a tough assignment in the Nations League but also in the rescheduled Euro 2020, where world champions France and European champions Portugal are among their opponents next summer.

Therefore, some much-needed ranking points will surely help head coach Joachim Low, who is under pressure after two underwhelming campaigns on the trot.

Low was considered by some as fortunate to have held onto his job and now will feel it is his time to repay the trust placed in him by German football chiefs.

He has not called up most of Bayern Munich’s stars, so soon after their successful Champions League campaign. Instead, Low has spoken of the need for cooperation between clubs and national teams to ensure players do not become burnt out in what is going to be a crammed two years of football.

That means the only Bayern representatives in this Germany squad are Niklas Sule and new signing Leroy Sane.

There are also first call-ups for Atalanta wing-back Robin Gosens and Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Florian Neuhaus.

Spain also have a new look as Luis Enrique effectively begins a new era.

Their inaugural Nations League ended in real disappointment as they finished second to England and missed out on a place in the finals, something that will surely be their aim this time around.

Unbeaten in 11 matches since a 3-2 loss at the hands of Croatia, the likes of Barcelona teenager Ansu Fati and Manchester City’s new recruit Ferran Torres have been called up to an attacking line that is yet to be tested at international level.

Young defenders Eric Garcia and Pau Torres have also been added to the squad, along with the Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Unai Simon.

In contrast, the experienced Jordi Alba, Saul Niguez, Alvaro Morata, Isco and Diego Costa have all been left out.

Wolves winger Adama Traore had also been included but he is the second player to drop out, along with Mikel Oyarzabal, after testing positive for Covid-19.

Some interesting stats to finish:

As well as Thiago and Dani Olmo, Spain right-back Dani Carvajal has also plied his trade in the Bundesliga, playing 32 games on loan at Bayer Leverkusen in the 2012/13 campaign.

With 16 major honours with Bayern, Thiago is the second-most decorated Spaniard in the history of German football. Javi Martinez – uncapped since June 2014 – has won the most, collecting 20 trophies with the Bavarian juggernaut.

Germany's last UEFA Nations League campaign ended in massive disappointment under Joachim Low

Germany coach Joachim Low during training

History

Germany’s record in 23 senior meetings with Spain is won nine, drawn seven, lost seven.

The countries last met two years ago in a friendly in Dusseldorf which ended 1-1 after new Leeds United signing Rodrigo and recent Champions League winner Thomas Muller traded goals.

Their only two competitive encounters over the last quarter of a century have both been huge and have both gone Spain’s way.

They saw off Germany by a solitary Carles Puyol goal in the 2010 World Cup semi-final, just two years after clinching Euro 2008 to end their long wait for honours.

Their very first meeting was a friendly in 1935 when two goals from Isidro Langara earned Spain a 2-1 success.

Betting Tip

??
Germany vs Spain 1X2 Germany @ 2.39
Sept 04, 02:45 (GMT+8)

The SBOTOP UEFA Nations League 2020 betting odds lean towards a home success but only just.

You can back Germany 1X2 @ 2.39 or with Asian Handicap -0.25 @ 2.12. Spain are available to tip 1X2 @ 2.81 or Asian Handicap 0.00 @ 2.12.

The draw @ 3.25 has a definite appeal, as does a repeat of their last meeting – correct score 1-1 – @ 5.40.

I am plumping for the Germans to edge this with a three-star prediction of Germany 1X2 @ 2.39.

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08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 1:17 PM (18 days ago)            #4
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UEFA Nations League: Post Koeman Oranje Will Be Just Fine


Netherlands vs Poland

The Netherlands kick off their UEFA Nations League campaign on Friday night with a Group A1 home tie against Poland.

The 2019 Nations League finalists are in a tough group with Italy and Bosnia & Herzegovina, and they start a new era without departed boss Ronald Koeman.

62-year-old Dwight Lodeweges has taken over as the interim head coach and he inherits a young and hungry Dutch team which has won many fans over the past two years.

Poland are always difficult opponents, and they come off the back of a successful European campaign. But they will arrive at the Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam without their star man, Robert Lewandowski. That’s a shame for the neutrals but not for the hosts, who will be looking for a positive start to the post-Koeman era.

Talking Points

Oranje prepare to move on without Ronald

Koeman’s departure to manage Barcelona has left a void at the helm of a team which was on the up. But Lodeweges is confident he can maintain the Oranje’s momentum, and why shouldn’t he be with such a talented squad that he knows well, having worked as Koeman’s assistant over the past two years?

Ronald Koeman has guided Netherlands to reached the UEFA Nations League final

Ronald Koeman during his unveiling as the new Barcelona manager

“Ronald has gone but football life continues,” he says. “It is very exciting but I have been around a long time. Two and a half years ago we started a nice trajectory and we all had our contributions, Ronald mainly in managing while we were more involved in the groundwork. That went very well and we will just continue.”

The team is built around Virgil van Dijk, who has been pivotal in Liverpool’s successful Premier League campaign, and he is sure to make a start alongside the experienced Stefan de Vrij. Behind those two, Valencia’s Jasper Cillessen is likely to get the nod over the returning keeper Tim Krul.

23-year-old Barcelona midfield playmaker Frenkie de Jong provides the creative muscle, and up front, the rejuvenated Memphis Depay is likely to line up alongside Ryan Babel and Luuk de Jong, with Spurs’ speedy striker Steven Bergwijn an option from the bench.

The UEFA Nations League 2020 betting odds here at SBOTOP are backing the Netherlands to win Group A1 at odds of 2.10, and if this group of players reaches its potential that should prove the case.

No Lewandowski for Poland

The big UEFA Nations League 2020 news to emerge from the preparations for this fixture is the omission of star striker Robert Lewandowski from the Poland line-up, and that can only be good news for the Oranje.

Lewandowski is the most lethal striker in Europe, if not the world, and for Poland to begin their Nations League campaign without him hands the hosts a distinct advantage.

Poland head coach Jerzy Brzeczek accepts the FC Bayern star is in need of a rest, with the new Bundesliga season due to start in two weeks time, and he will give the chance to Krzysztof Piatek to stake his claim.

 The 25-year-old Hertha striker arrived in Berlin after a 27m Euros switch from AC Milan and has scored four goals in 15 appearances for the Bundesliga club so far. With five goals in 10 appearances for Poland, he has a way to go to match Lewandowski… but it’s a good start.

In Lewandowski’s absence, Napoli midfielder Piotr Zielinski is Poland’s player to watch, with his impressive passing range and eye for goal.

History

The Netherlands have won six of the 15 games played between these two teams with six drawn and Poland triumphing in just three.

The Dutch are unbeaten in the last seven encounters, since a 2-0 Euro qualifying defeat in 1979. Poland are yet to win in the Netherlands in seven attempts, but they come into this game on a run of five games unbeaten.

Betting Tip

??

Netherlands vs Poland Under 2.50 @ 1.91
September 05, 02:25 (GMT+8)

The latest FIFA Football Rankings suggest we have two pretty well-matched teams here, with the Netherlands in 14th position, just five places above Poland in 19th. But that doesn’t take account of the Dutch team’s steady upwards trajectory and the absence of Poland’s talisman Lewandowski.

But even without their star striker, the visitors are in good shape and will put up a fight in Amsterdam.

The Netherlands are at 1.48 to win with the draw at 3.83 and Poland out at 6.00 to spring a surprise; I think the hosts should edge it but it will be tight.

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08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 1:19 PM (18 days ago)            #5
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UEFA Nations League: Romania and Northern Ireland Starting With Clean Slates

Romania vs Northern Ireland

One of the biggest European showcases is finally here as the UEFA Nations League is set to kick off this week.

The top European national football teams will be put back into action after a 10-month hiatus, and a lot has changed since then.

Of course, there is still the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, which effectively put football on pause for a considerable amount of time.

But with club football taking a short breather after just finishing their respective seasons, our favourite athletes will figure in a battle of attrition to help their respective countries achieve their team objectives.

One the matches this weekend will feature two upstarts in Romania and Northern Ireland.

This match isn’t exactly as high-profiled compared to the other matches previewed by my colleague, but this one should be action-packed nonetheless.

Although they haven’t performed too well in their last few international fixtures last year, this weekend should provide a good opportunity to pick themselves back up and create some sort of momentum.

Today we feature the latest news about these teams while examining on how they would matchup against each other.

Talking Points

Who will step up for Romania?

Romania are filled with young players eager to prove themselves in this tournament.

They probably did a lot of reflecting especially after performing badly towards the end of the Euro 2020 qualifying rounds 10 months ago.

The Mirel Radoi-coached squad were crushed by the mighty Spaniards in their last international fixture. Prior to that, they were beaten badly by Sweden too.

Having learned the painful lessons from last year, they will be looking to use it as fuel starting this weekend.

Romania will look to find their form as they face Northern Ireland in UEFA Nations League

Romania have a good record against Northern Ireland as they are unbeaten in three games, with two wins

Some key players to look out for Romania are the likes of Alexandru Mitrita, Razvan Marin, and Ianis Hagi.

Alexandru Mitrita plays as a winger for NYC FC in the MLS and he is one of their top marksmen, having notched 12 goals and two assists in 30 appearances last season.

Ianis Hagi is slowly building his name as one of Europe’s emerging young stars. The 21-year-old plays as an attacking midfielder for the Rangers in the Scottish Premiership.

Razvan Marin, on the other hand, will also be a reliable presence in the middle for Romania. The 24-year-old is set to suit up for Cagliari, after winning the Eredivisie title playing for Ajax last term.

Gaining experience will be the main priority for Romania. However, the other teams would be wise to not take them lightly.

Northern Ireland usher in a new regime

There’s a new man in charge for Northern Ireland as they try to build off their success last year.

Ian Baraclough has been appointed to take over the coaching helm and there will be some pressure for him to continue the heralded Michael O’Neill era.

The 49-year-old manager has been working with the Irish Football Association for quite some time now.

Baraclough worked previously as the boss of Northern Ireland’s U-21 squad and he transformed them to be a winning side, which includes a 2-1 win over Spain in 2018 that had big names such as Mikel Oyarzabal, Borja Mayoral, and Pablo Fornals.

He also worked closely as an assistant to Michael O’Neill, so it was natural that he’ll be promoted once the latter already announced that he’ll leave the team to manage Stoke City in the English Championship.

Northern Ireland will have some established names in their roster.

The Green and White army will be led by skipper Steven Davis, who is set to make his 119th appearance this weekend, while he will be joined by veterans Jordan Jones, Corry Evans, Conor Washington, and Joel Cooper.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland wil no longer have Mark Sykes in the squad since the 23-year-old has pledged allegiance to the Republic of Ireland.

History

International matches between Romania and Northern Ireland come only once in a blue moon.

In fact, they’ve only faced each other three times prior to Saturday, with Romania winning in two fixtures along with one draw.

Their first-ever match happened back in 2006 where it ended with a 2-0 scoreline, the same exact thing happened eight years later.

Their previous encounter happened in 2015 where it ended in a goalless draw.

Betting Tip

??
Romania vs Northern Ireland Under 2.25 @ 1.83
September 5, 02:45 (GMT+8)

Since the sample size is too small to draw possible conclusions, I’m heavily leaning towards recommending bettors to monitor the goal total instead.

Neither team have shown the capability to punch in plenty of goals, which is why I recommend placing your wagers on Under 2.50 @ 1.83. You can also bet on Total Goal 0-1 @ 2.04.

Looking at the latest UEFA Nations League 2020 odds in the 1×2 market, the Romanians are slightly favoured to win as they are priced at 2.26, while Northern Ireland are priced at 3.25 and chances of a draw are at 3.05.

Overall, this figures to be an interesting matchup for this weekend. To learn more about the latest UEFA Nations League 2020 updates, continue to tune in here at SBOTOP.

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08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 1:25 PM (18 days ago)            #6
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UEFA Nations League: Hampden Is Where The Heart And Hope Is

Scotland vs Israel

Group B2 in the UEFA Nations League may not sound like the most appealing attraction for followers of top-class football but mark my words, this clash at Hampden Park – the home of Scottish football – has a lot going for it.

For a start, it provides a dress rehearsal advantage for Scotland and Israel’s Euro 2021 play-off next month and a chance for a psychological.

Furthermore, the winners of this group are guaranteed a play-off spot for the 2022 World Cup.

With such incentives, UEFA Nations League highlights should be reasonably expected.

Talking Points

This is the second edition of UEFA’s newest national-team competition. European champions Portugal clinched the first title on home turf last summer, the culmination of a tournament that drew praise from across the continent. The 2020/21 edition will look to build on that success, with a couple of tweaks this time around.

For Scotland, Steve Clarke revived the Tartan Amy’s fortunes at the end of last year as they won their last three European qualifiers (albeit against minnows San Marino, Cyprus and Kazakhstan) after a four-game losing streak.

As well as Israel, they will also face the Czech Republic and Slovakia as they step up to the second strata of Nations League groups after promotion from the third tier.

Getting off to a good start in the first of six matches across their group over September, October and November will be at the forefront of their minds then.

What a victory would do for confidence is unclear but certainly the setback of a defeat would not help a national side which has struggled for consistency over the last decade but is now in contention to win four consecutive games for the first time since October 2007, when the team went on to win six in a row under Alex McLeish.

Clarke is hampered by some notable absentees up front this week with Steven Naismith, Oli McBurnie – who impressed for Sheffield United last term – and Lawrence Shankland all missing, while Robert Snodgrass has retired from international football.

However, they do have James Forrest, a scorer for Celtic on Saturday – and someone who has a proud recent history against the Israelis – joined by new £2 million QPR recruit Lyndon Dykes.

The 24 year-old may have been born in Australia but he qualifies – his parents are both Scottish – and could be handed his debut from the start.

 His continued goalscoring form for Livingston earned his recent move and he could potentially form a new-look strike partnership with Forrest, who may only have five goals in 34 Scotland appearances but appears to be finding his feet on the international stage.

Only Serbia’s Aleksandar Mitrovic scored more goals in the 2018-2019 Nations League than the pacy wide man and Scotland may need to lean on him heavily.

Israel are a decent side but are not in a good run of form themselves and have lost their last two against North Macedonia and Poland and have only one win in seven.

Despite their poor run, they have still scored five in their last four matches and are up against a nation with a vulnerable defensive record.

Before the recent run of victories, Scotland conceded 10 in three matches against Russia, who beat them home and away, and Belgium, and that should give Israel a glimmer of confidence.

Influential figures Tomer Hemed and Beram Kayal sit out this trip after being released by Charlton and Brighton respectively.

China-based Eran Zahavi and Hoffenheim forward Moanes Dabour could still prove a threat up front, while Celtic duo Nir Bitton and Hatem Abd Elhamed are familiar faces.

Back to Scotland and the fact that Clarke appears to have two genuine quality players in his squad – Kieran Tierney and Andrew Robertson, his skipper – bodes well for the hosts.

That both are left-backs, narrows down the options somewhat.

Expect to see Tierney at centre back or Robertson pushed further forward in what should be an interesting dynamic in an interesting tie.

History

These two nations have met five times since their inaugural clash in 1981 and Scotland have won four of them.

The only reverse came in the inaugural Nations League nearly two years ago when a late own goal gave the Israelis a 2-1 victory in Haifa.

However, Scotland won the return fixture a month later when a superb Forrest hat-trick earned the Scots a 3-2 success secured promotion from League C in the competition.

The very first meeting 39 years ago was in a qualifier for the 1982 World Cup when Kenny Dalglish netted the only goal in Tel Aviv for a side managed by the legendary Jock Stein.

Betting Tip

??
Scotland vs Israel Over 2.25 @ 2.08
September 5, 02:45 (GMT+8)

The SBOTOP UEFA Nations League betting odds back Scotland 1X2 @ 1.88 and Asian Handicap -0.75 @ 2.20.

The visitors are available to tip 1X2 @ 4.20, Asian Handicap +0.50 @ 2.03 and the draw is on offer @ 3.20.

It’s hard to see past Israel’s poor away record but Scotland have yet to convince fully either.

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08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 1:27 PM (18 days ago)            #7
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UEFA Nations League: The Danes Take On the World’s Best

Denmark vs Belgium

A fascinating matchup beckons us for this upcoming weekend as Denmark will host Belgium in their first UEFA Nations League fixture this year.

After all, this is one of the most anticipated matchups in the tournament as it features two teams that are very much capable of providing us UEFA Nations League 2020 highlights.

Several marquee players will be bannered in this weekend’s festivities with established names such as Romelu Lukaku, Thorgan and Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Yussuf Poulsen, and Christian Eriksen listed in the programmes.

Belgium are currently the top-ranked team in the world while Denmark are few notches below them at 16th place.

Although the UEFA Nations League 2020 odds heavily back the Red Devils to win on the road given their disparity in the FIFA rankings, it doesn’t mean that the Danes are chopped liver.

With these two teams bunched together with England and Iceland in Group A2, this is expected to be a tough test as both squads will look to kick off their respective campaigns in style.

Talking Points

Denmark looking to spring an upset

The Danes are now the 16th-ranked team in the FIFA rankings, and for good reason, as they have performed well in their international matches last year.

 Prior to international play undergoing a 10-month hiatus, Denmark were undefeated in their last 13 matches, and most of them were from the Euro 2020 qualifying rounds.

Denmark were firing on all cylinders, but their momentum was slightly halted with a 1-1 draw against Ireland.

Although their main mission in qualifying for the tournament’s later rounds was already accomplished, the Danes were hosed by the plucky Ireland club because of a late header by Tottenham-bound full-back Matt Doherty.

Nonetheless, Denmark will come into this match brimming with confidence as their roster offers an interesting mix of established veterans and young upstarts.

Manning between the sticks is Kasper Schmeichel, who was one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League. The Leicester City shot stopper had 13 clean sheets last term.

Meanwhile, Denmark’s midfield will be led by the duo of Christian Eriksen and Thomas Delaney, and they have a promising combo up front with Martin Braithwaite and Yussuf Poulsen.

While their attack can hang with the best of them, their lineup of defenders might be seen as a point of weakness.

Simon Kjaer and Joachim Andersen may offer some sort of resistance, but it remains to be seen on what the others can contribute on that end.

Belgium’s Golden Generation aim to make a statement

The Red Devils are still in pursuit for that elusive first-ever international title and they feel that this current core can finally win it all. Hence, this group has been dubbed as the “golden generation”.

Roberto Martinez' men are set to visit Denmark for their UEFA Nations League match

Roberto Martinez during Belgium’s match against Scotland

With a roster oozing with talent from all positions, Belgium are one of the teams to look out for in the UEFA Nations League.

At the back, they have goalkeepers in Thibaut Courtois and Simon Mignolet while they will be supported by topnotch defenders in Toby Alderweireld, Thomas Meunier, and Jan Vertonghen.

This club is dangerous at the attack as they have numerous options. Leading the way will be Kevin De Bruyne, Thorgan Hazard, Youri Tielemans, Dries Mertens, and Romelu Lukaku.

Anderlecht forwards Landry Dimata and Jeremy Doku round out the attacking front and they will be thrown into the fire for this competition.

But if the Red Devils want to win the whole thing, the x-factor here will be Eden Hazard’s fitness and form. The Real Madrid forward has yet to recapture his talismanic ways but he will have given enough chances to do so.

History

Denmark and Belgium’s meetings have only come few and far between as they’ve faced off in only 13 occasions.

The Red Devils own the advantage in the head-to-heads with six wins while the Danes won four times along with three draws.

Believe it or not, but the last time these two locked horns happened 20 years ago. The international friendly match ended in a 2-2 draw and it was held in Copenhagen.

Betting Tip

??
Denmark vs Belgium Belgium Asian Handicap -0.50 @ 1.84
September 6, 02:45 (GMT+8)

Roberto Martinez’s men side are the obvious favourites on this one. Belgium are priced at 1.83 to win while Denmark are pegged at 3.90 and chances for a draw are at 3.60 in the 1×2 market.

A lot has changed since these two faced off back in 2000. The names of the players may be different now, but the intensity between these two should remain the same.

With numerous capable attackers present, goals are expected to come in bunches. Hence, you can also place your bets on either Over 2.50 @ 1.54 or Total Goal 2-3 @ 1.88. Total Goal 4-6 @ 2.11 seems possible too.

As always, SBOTOP has you covered as we will always provide the latest updates surrounding the UEFA Nations League.

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08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 1:30 PM (18 days ago)            #8
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UEFA Nations League: Allez Les Bleus!

Sweden vs France

France begin their Nations League campaign with a trip to Sweden on Saturday and the World Champions are determined to make a winning start.

But it won’t be easy. UEFA Nations League; Sweden vs France is one of the biggest games in an entertaining open round of fixtures, and we can expect Didier Deschamps to put out a strong France side as he prepares to continue Les Bleus’ domination of European football.

The first ever UEFA Nations League was a great success, bringing excitement to the previously meaningless procession of friendly internationals, and now it’s a trophy France want to win. They are currently second in the World FIFA rankings, on the heels of neighbours Belgium, and this opening match in Group A3 at the Friends Arena in Solna is a good test against the 17th ranked Swedes.

 Talking Points

France are favourites for the title…

Didier Deschamps’ has a wealth of talent to choose from and in Kylian Mbappe, one of the most exciting players on the planet. So it’s little surprise that Les Bleus are the favourites to win this Nations League, available at odds of 5.00 here at SBOTOP to lift the trophy at the second attempt, after Portugal won the inaugural competition in 2019.

The French head to Solna with a strong squad, though they will be without Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, who has tested positive for COVID 19. That could leave an opening for Rennes’ 17 year old wonderkid Eduardo Camavinga to take his international bow. And there could also be a start for Red Bull Leipzig’s gifted young defender Dayot Upamecano.

Up front Deschamps has a frightening array of goal scorers to choose from. Alongside Mbappe he has Barca’s Antoine Griezmann and Chelsea target man Olivier Giroud, with Wissam Ben Yedder pushing for a start after an impressive first season at Monaco where he scored 18 goals in 26 games.

Griezmann has had a tough first season at the Camp Nou and he might think he has a point to prove, but he’ll need to be at his sharpest to pierce a stubborn Sweden defence.

UEFA Nations League: Can Antoine Griezmann redeem himself in international stage?

Antoine Griezmann has struggled to make an impact in his first season at Barcelona

France are odds on at 1.80 to win Group A3, while the Swedes are outsiders at 14.00 in a difficult group containing holders Portugal and 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia.

Les Blues will want to put down an early marker.

But Sweden are tough to beat on home soil

The Swedes come into the Nations League after completing a successful European Championship campaign, when they finished second to Spain in a strong group containing Norway and Romania. And they begin this competition with a seven match unbeaten run, since losing 3-0 away to Spain.

At home Janne Andersson’s side has lost just one game in seven and has a solid look about it. Roma’s 6ft 5in keeper Robin Olsen is a colossus between the posts and centre back Victor Lindelof has just enjoyed his best season at Manchester United. But the Sweden boss knows how difficult this game will be. “There are no bad teams in League A so we knew we would end up in a group with very good teams,” he says. “We have six really tough challenges ahead where we will test ourselves against some of the world’s best teams.

“During the pandemic we made the best of the situation. We feel as prepared as we can be.”

History

Of course, France are the reigning World Champions and the have their sights set on Euro 2021, and while Griezmann will use the Nations League to experiment with some younger players, they are in it to win it!

Sweden are worthy opponents having reached the 2018 World Cup quarter final and they are on a good sequence of form.

Les Bleus have bossed the head to head Sweden vs France results with four wins, three draws and two defeats in the nine meetings since 1978; and the two teams met in qualification for the 2018 World Cup, each winning their home game by 2-1.

Recent form has been impressive on both camps, with identical records of five wins and a draw from the last six games and this game is going to be tight. So let’s take a look at the Sweden vs France betting odds and make a call.

Betting Tip

??

Sweden vs France France 1X2 @ 1.76
September 06, 02:45 (GMT+8)

Sweden are at 4.27 to win this opener with the draw is available at 3.45, but I think France have too much quality to be held by the stubborn Swedes, who have recently played out 1-1 draws with both Spain and Norway.

The hosts will try to stifle their flamboyant visitors and Les Bleus will have to be patient. For an alternative bet 1-0 to France is the most likely score line at odds so 5.22, while a half time/full time bet of Draw/Away is at 4.48.

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08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 1:37 PM (18 days ago)            #9
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UEFA Nations League: Portugal Kick Off Title Defence

Portugal vs Croatia

Reigning European champions Portugal were unable to defend their crown at Euro 2020 this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But Cristiano Ronaldo and co. will begin the defence of their other title, the UEFA Nations League, as they take on Croatia at the Estadio do Dragao.

Ronaldo headlines a Portuguese side which features a strong Premier League contingent led by last year’s breakout star, Bruno Fernandes.

The champions will kick off their new Nations League campaign against Croatia. The UEFA Nations League 2020 odds will not be in favour of the World Cup finalists, who will be missing key midfielders Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic.

 Talking Points

Portugal have more than just Ronaldo in attack

Portugal are all set to begin the defence of their Nations League crown. They went undefeated in the group stage of last year’s tournament, getting a win and a draw against both Italy and Poland to qualify for the Nations League Finals.

The Portuguese performed surprisingly well despite not having talisman Cristiano Ronaldo for the entire group stage. Andre Silva stepped up in Ronaldo’s absence by scoring three of Portugal’s five goals in the group stage.

However, Ronaldo returned for their semi-final clash against Switzerland, and he scored a sensational hat-trick to send them through to the final against the Netherlands.

Ronaldo — who is coming off a 37-goal campaign with Serie A champions Juventus — is now set to participate in the group stage of this year’s competition. The 35-year-old is just one goal shy of 100 career international goals and will be desperate to reach that milestone against Croatia.

The Juventus star is expected to start up front, with the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva offering support.

Portugal are unbeaten in their last five meetings with Croatia

Bruno Fernandes celebrates after scoring the penalty kick for Manchester United

Fernandes took the Premier League by storm last season as his arrival in the winter helped Manchester United return to the Champions League. He finished with 12 goals and eight assists in 20 appearances in all competitions for the Red Devils.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos usually plays a conservative style, but aside from Ronaldo, Bruno, and Bernardo, he will have also strong attacking options on the bench in Joao Felix, Diogo Jota, Andre Silva, and Goncalo Guedes, who scored the winning goal in the final against the Netherlands.

Croatia missing midfield maestros

Croatia did not have a great experience in the first Nations League campaign last year. They were drawn in a tough group with England and Spain, they and finished in last place with two losses, one of which was a 6-0 demolition by the Spanish.

Things won’t get any easier this time around for Croatia, who will be without the veteran midfield duo of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic for their opening games.

The two have been crucial to the Croatians’ success over the last few years, particularly their run to the World Cup final in 2018. Their quality and experience will definitely be missed against Portugal.

However, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic still has a couple of capable midfielders in Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic and Inter’s Marcelo Brozovic to call upon.

Meanwhile, Croatia also have a pair of in-form forwards in Ivan Perisic and Ante Rebic, who are both capable of producing some UEFA Nations League 2020 highlights.

Perisic emerged as a key player in Bayern Munich’s run to the Champions League title, while Rebic had a strong season for AC Milan with 11 goals — five of which came after the restart — and three assists.

Portugal don’t have the most impressive collection of defenders, which Croatia’s forwards could exploit.

History

Portugal have a terrific record against Croatia, with four wins and a draw in their five overall head-to-head meetings. They last met in a friendly in 2016, which resulted in a 1-1 draw after goals from Pepe and Perisic.

They also met in the round of 16 of Euro 2016. Portugal won 1-0 in extra-time thanks to a 117th-minute Ricardo Quaresma goal as they went on to win their first European championship.

Betting Tip

??
Portugal vs Croatia 1X2 Portugal @ 1.94
September 6, 02:45 (GMT+8)

SBOTOP odds have Portugal priced as significant 1.94 favourites to start off their title defence with a win. Croatia are only 3.85 to claim a surprise victory while a draw is 3.30.

With no Modric and Rakitic, it’s hard to see Croatia coming out with a positive result in Porto. Not only do the Portuguese have the best player on the pitch in Ronaldo, but their supporting cast is also superior to Croatia’s.

Croatia could also be dealing with a bit of fatigue after the likes of Kovacic, Brozovic, and Perisic played long seasons for their respective clubs.

In the end, the signs point to Portugal starting their Nations League campaign with another win over Croatia.

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08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 1:40 PM (18 days ago)            #10
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UEFA Nations League Returns with Euro 2016 Rematch

Iceland vs England

It would be very easy for me to dismiss the importance of the UEFA Nations League.

I did once before actually and, to a certain degree, was proved wrong.

After all, UEFA chiefs were ultimately correct in that the tournament largely offered an improvement on the often-seen drudgery of international friendlies.

They were also correct that it tended to enliven matches more than so many of the meaningless encounters we have witnessed between qualifying and tournaments.

And as UEFA Nations League highlights galore duly followed, international teams were largely keen to give it their best shot with European champions Portugal underlining its importance as they won the inaugural tournament on home soil.

However, this time does seem different.

Not the concept, which initially even failed to inspire some players, more the fact that another competition is not so welcome in a 2020-21 campaign which is already going to be crammed into a shorter time frame due to Covid-19.

So, in the scheme of importance, this may be bottom of many people’s priorities.

Talking Points

That is highlighted by the Icelandic squad where there is no Gylfi Sigurdsson, Alfred Finnbogason, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Ragnar Sigurdsson or Aron Gunnarsson.

The first three decided against playing, Ragnar is injured and Gunnarsson’s club didn’t allow him.

Clearly, with most domestic leagues due to begin after barely a break, this really is a fixture many could do without.

Even Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford has withdrawn from England duty after reporting for duty with an ankle problem.

It is understood to be minor and United hope he will be available to start the Premier League season after some rest.

A bigger tournament though would surely have been worth the risk?

I expect there to be plenty of new faces who earn an England cap on Saturday: a few from the start, the majority from the bench.

With Rashford and his club skipper Harry Maguire among the absentees, there have been an additional number of call-ups, including Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish who has previously represented England at Under-21 level and was a member of Gareth Southgate’s 2016 Toulon Tournament-winning squad.

Then there is Wolves defender Conor Coady and Arsenal’s exciting young talent Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

They will all be keen to lay down a marker to Southgate with two successive summer tournaments scheduled.

The disruption caused to the football calendar by coronavirus, including Euro 2020 being delayed by a year until 2021, means this will actually be England’s first match since November last year, when a 4-0 win in Kosovo concluded their Euro 2020 qualification campaign.

Iceland wll host England in their opening game in the UEFA Nations League

Iceland players celebrate after scoring against Albania in the European Qualifiers

As for Iceland in Reykjavik, they will be no pushovers but, even with a full squad, would not have been expected to win, or even draw.

Their population of around 360,000 will always see them as massive underdogs and, whatever happens, Icelandic people will always retain their love affair with the English game.

The result of this clash? Well, it’s just not that important!

History

From their first meeting in 1956, to their most recent four years ago, England have won nine and drawn two of their 12 clashes.

Yet the only match which was not a friendly caused the biggest shock in international football history and produced a result which shamed England and was Iceland’s finest hour.

A truly magnificent win for the international minnows at Euro 2016.

Captain Wayne Rooney fired the Three Lions ahead but then Ragnar Sigurdsson equalised and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson rifled home the winner to consign England to arguably the worst defeat in their long history.

Manager Roy Hodgson resigned immediately after the game.

In the words of former defender Gudni Bergsson, who shone for Bolton in the Premier League and also represented Spurs with distinction in English football: ‘It was something special, that a small nation of Iceland was actually capable of beating England in an important game. It is a similar fairy-tale story to Leicester winning the Premier League. It captured the imagination.’

Betting Tip

??
Iceland vs England Total Goals 4-6 @ 2.92
September 06, 00:00 (GMT+8)

If you fancy a risk and potentially a worthwhile payday, then look at the SBOTOP UEFA Nations League betting odds and opt for Iceland 1X2 @ 12.50 or Asian Handicap Iceland +1.50 @ 2.09.

Perhaps the draw @ 5.20 appeals, Double Chance Iceland or Draw @ 3.70, or how about a repeat of the shock of all shocks from four years ago – correct score Iceland 2-1 England – available @ 65.00.

Then there’s the obvious backing for England 1X2 @ 1.24 or Asian Handicap – 1.75 @ 2.16.

I expect plenty of goals in an England win.

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08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 1:44 PM (18 days ago)            #11
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UEFA Nations League: Honours Even as Werner Shows His Class

Germany 1-1 Spain

A clash of two giants was always worth watching – whether that be in a World Cup, European Championship or yes, even the more low-key platform of the UEFA Nations League.

This was certainly the case as two nations, both with a slight new-look, battled it out in Stuttgart for a deserved share of the spoils.

As for the verdict? Well, look what money can buy you!

Highlights of the game

Among three newbies in the home squad, Atalanta left-back Robin Gosens was handed his first cap from the start, while Spain boss Luis Enrique – looking to make the most of Spain’s young talent – handed new Manchester City man Ferran Torres his international debut with Barcelona teenager Ansu Fati also making his international bow for La Roja straight after half-time.

However, it was Chelsea’s new £54 million signing who many onlookers were talking about at the end of this one.

He had been quiet for long spells but, nine minutes after the restart, Gosens laid the ball back to the marksman and he skipped past two opponents before firing a classy low finish beyond David De Gea.

It was a goal which showed his undoubted class and perhaps will be a sign of things to come in the Premier League this season.

It may also lift some of the pressure on national boss Joachim Low, seemingly on his last hurrah after he somehow managed to survive the embarrassment of a World Cup exit at the hands of South Korea two summers ago.

His pre-match comments about Spain though – in which he highlighted their danger while stressing their playing style had drifted away from what made them so successful in previous years – was to come back to haunt him with virtually the last kick of the match.

Aside from the Werner goal, there were plenty of other UEFA Nations League highlights in an entertaining contest.

The first chance arrived for the hosts in the 11th minute, but De Gea was equal to Thilo Kehrer’s header.

Play quickly went down the other end and Rodrigo had to be denied, at the second time of asking, by goalkeeper Kevin Trapp.

Spain managed to escape with a 1-1 draw in the UEFA Nations League match against Germany

David De Gea with the ball during Spain’s UEFA Nations League clash against Germany

Next, it was De Gea’s turn to be called into action again, keeping out Leroy Sane who had to leave the fray on the hour with an injury in his first outing for a year since rupturing his cruciate ligament.

Play continued end-to-end and Trapp kept out Sergio Busquets and then, on the stroke of half-time, stopped Rodrigo with his feet.

The excitement continued into the second half and, even after Werner’s strike, there were chances at both ends.

Thiago went close for Spain, De Gea superbly tipped a Niklas Sule header over the crossbar while Antonio Rudiger missed a great chance to seal the victory two minutes from time.

It was to come back to bite the hosts as, deep in stoppage time, Rodrigo headed the ball down and Valencia defender Jose Gaya poked the ball past Trapp.

That was that and it’s honours even after the opening match of the UEFA Nations League.

Both nations will have senior players to return, particularly Germany whose team was largely deprived of stars from Bayern Munich following their Champions League triumph in Portugal 11 days ago.

Spain, who convincingly reached Euro 2020, have some senior players to return too and a look at the SBOTOP UEFA Nations League betting odds suggest both these nations will be among the favourites as this tournament progresses.

Key statistics

Fati has become the 800th player to play for Spain since their first match in August 1920 and is the second youngest to play for the nation.

At 17 years and 308 days old, the teenager is behind just Angel Zubieta, who debuted on April 1936 in Prague at 17 years and 283 days old.

Werner’s 12th goal for Germany came in his 30th international appearance.

This was Sule’s 25th cap for Germany on his 25th birthday.

Spain have scored at least once in their last 41 international games, their longest run ever. The last time they failed to score was against Italy in Euro 2016.

Germany edge their all-time head-to-head record with Spain with nine wins to La Roja’s seven. There have also been eight draws between the two nations.

Die Mannschaft have now gone three consecutive games without defeat against Spain.

What’s next?

Both nations quickly move onto their second fixtures in Group D. Germany make the short trip to Switzerland on Sunday night (September 6), while Spain host Ukraine at the same time.

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08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 1:47 PM (18 days ago)            #12
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UEFA Nations League: Late Moore Strike Means A Winning Start For Wales

Finland 0-1 Wales

A late goal from Kieffer Moore gave Ryan Giggs’ Wales a welcome victory in their opening Nations League match tonight, against a well organised Finland in Helsinki.

This UEFA Nations League match had all the hallmarks of a tight affair on paper, and on grass, it turned out to be exactly that! The teams were taking the pitch for the first time since 2019 and in a hard-fought game of few chances there were some tired legs as the match progressed, but the visitors kept going to take advantage.

The Finland vs Wales betting odds here at SBOTOP had the Welsh at 2.32 to win, but Finland boss Markku Kanerva will be disappointed to be on the wrong end of this result.

Highlights of the game

Wales had the ball in the Finland net with just four minutes on the clock and it was a nice move started by Ben Davies who sent Dan James on his way, and when the Manchester United winger found Kieffer Moore with a cross, the Wigan man stooped to head home. But Wales’ celebrations were short-lived as the linesman flagged, quite rightly, having seen Moore push Sauli Vaisanen to make space.

Finland had their opening chance two minutes later with a free-kick opportunity which was curled into the danger area but Joel Pohjanpalo was caught by surprise and the striker poked the ball wide. Wales were back on the attack quickly and when James fired in a low cross Juhani Ojala almost turned the ball into his own net but keeper Lukas Hradecky got down well to save, and he kept Gareth Bale out before he could convert the loose ball.

Gareth Bale played only 45 minutes in Wales’ UEFA Nations League match against Finland

Gareth Bale in action for Wales against Finland in the UEFA Nations League

Hradecky has built himself quite a reputation in the Bundesliga, starring for Bayer Leverkusen in a memorable victory over the mighty FC Bayern. And he showed good hands again tonight when Moore had a chance with a header.

Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki has been in fine form for club and country, scoring nine times in Finland’s successful Euro qualifying campaign, and he managed to get a crisp shot away only to see it deflected wide.

Moore’s disallowed effort was the closest either side came in the opening 45 minutes as Finland snuffed out any threat Wales could pose. Gareth Bale did little to suggest he could open up the Finland defence and he was replaced at the start of the second half by Harry Wilson.

While Bale’s future at Real Madrid remains uncertain and the pre-match Finland vs Wales news reports were speculating on his future, the Welsh fans would have hoped for more, as they knew full well that when Wales win it’s usually because Bale has scored.

And any worries they had were almost compounded when Finland came within a whisker of scoring. Pohjanpalo met a corner with a superb header back across the six-yard box and Vaisanen hit it first time but his effort from four yards out crashed back off the post. Finland were in the ascendancy but failed to take advantage and Wales settled back into the game, but they too struggled to make an opening.

It looked for all the world like a goalless draw and then, with ten minutes to go Moore got his goal. It was the same combination as when his effort which was chalked off at the start of the game. Davies set James free with a fine through ball and his low cross was inch perfect for Moore to slide home past a helpless Hradecky.

Key statistics

Wales ended a four-game winless streak against Finland tonight but it didn’t come easily.

Finland had the majority of possession, 54 per cent, and won the shot count by six to three, but the telling statistic is that Wales had the only shot on target.

And the Welsh have won three on the bounce for the first time under Giggs, and are now seven matches unbeaten.

What’s next?

The Republic of Ireland and Bulgaria make up Group B4, and they met tonight at the Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia in a game which finished 1-1 as the Irish snatched an injury-time equaliser.

On Sunday Wales host Bulgaria while Finland head to the Republic of Ireland before the opening three rounds are completed on Sunday 11th. After coming so close tonight Finland might fancy their chances of a shut-out against the Irish, who had fewer shots (22) than any other side in the 2018/19 UEFA Nations League.

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08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 1:50 PM (18 days ago)            #13
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UEFA Nations League: Wales Head Home For More Points

Wales vs Bulgaria

Ryan Giggs’ Wales continue their UEFA Nations League campaign with a home match against Bulgaria at the Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday.

The ultimate aim is to win promotion to League A and join the finest teams and players in Europe, and this game became all the more exciting for Wales fans after the opening round of fixtures put Wales in charge of Group B4.

Another victory against an ageing and out-of-sorts Bulgaria would give Giggs’ team a handy lead in the early stages of the competition and give the Wales boss some serious momentum.

Talking Points

Perfect start for Wales’ young guns

Here at SBOTOPwe covered Wales’ opener and an away trip to Finland was a tough start for Giggs’ men.

The hosts had the better of a game which offered few chances at either end, and it looked like we were heading for a goalless draw until Wigan striker Kieffer Moore popped up to snatch the points with just 10 minutes remaining on the clock.

UEFA Nations League Highlight: Kieffer Moore’s late winner gave Wales the perfect start in Helsinki

Hradecky, Uronen, Bale and Moore in action during the UEFA Nations League match between Finland and Wales

It was another good result for Giggs, making it three wins on the bounce for the first time in his tenure, and the UEFA Nations League 2020 betting odds already back the Dragons to win the group.

This competition has been a welcome introduction, seeing the end of a meaningless series of friendly games. But it is also a chance for head coaches to see where their players are up to and try to develop some younger stars.

Giggs is doing just that by giving 19-year-old Dylan Levitt a start against Finland. The young midfielder looked at home alongside club colleague Dan James who also put in an impressive performance, showing great pace and delivery to set up the only goal of the game.

Joe Morrell made his presence felt with a battling display and Liverpool’s 23-year-old forward Harry Wilson made a positive impact when he replaced Gareth Bale at halftime.

It’s all looking bright for Wales fans who might just see a golden generation on the way.

Bulgaria’s old guard will struggle to keep pace

The visitors present a striking contrast with a squad containing 13 players over the age of 30.

Head coach Georgi Dermendzhiev is picking from a group of players who predominantly play in the Bulgarian league and he has no big names to inspire the nation.

Bulgaria were promoted to the B League having finished second in their Group C in the 2019 competition and they kicked off this campaign with a 1-1 draw against the Republic of Ireland.

It was a frustrating night for Dermendzhiev who watched his side go ahead midway through the second half only to concede a 93rd -minute equaliser.

He has some young legs in the team though, as 23-year-old Bozhidar Kraev was on target against Ireland. The midfielder ghosted in between centre-backs John Egan and Shane Duffy to head past Darren Randolph and into the net.

It would have been a rare victory for Bulgaria. Their last Euro qualification campaign came to an abrupt and nasty end with a 0-6 hammering at the hands of England in a game marred by racist chanting in the Sofia crowd, and they haven’t won an away match in qualifying for either the World Cup or European Championships since 2015.

The last time Bulgaria qualified for a major tournament finals was in 2004 at the European Championships, and they will have to wait for the World Cup 2022 qualifiers to start for their next chance of finals football.

History

This is the first meeting between the two sides so we’re working on recent form.

Wales are streets ahead, winning three on the bounce and are unbeaten in seven since a 1-0 defeat to Hungary in 2019. And Ryan Giggs’ side has scored in each of those seven games.

In stark contrast, Bulgaria have lost seven of the last ten, including some serious beatings as they’ve conceded ten goals to England in two games.

They have managed just a single win in that period against the Czech Republic in a meaningless game.

Betting Tip

??

Wales vs Bulgaria Over 2.25 goals @ 1.85
Sept 06, 21:00 (GMT+8)

After the first round of UEFA Nations League 2020 results, Wales are in great shape and I can’t see anything other than a home win.

The hosts are available at odds of 1.50, with Bulgaria at 7.50 and the draw is 3.95.

I think Giggs’ young guns will win at a canter. While they have registered three clean sheets, I expect them to score three against a weary Bulgaria.

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08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 1:53 PM (18 days ago)            #14
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UEFA Nations League: Dwight’s All Right for Netherlands!

Netherlands 1-0 Poland

Caretaker boss Dwight Lodeweges guided the Netherlands to a Nations League victory over Poland tonight, thanks to a second-half Steven Bergwijn strike.

UEFA Nations League; Netherlands vs Poland was a match between two in-form sides which qualified comfortably for Euro 2021; and both nations are building up towards that showcase tournament. But this trophy is worth winning too; and after the departure of Netherlands head coach Ronald Koeman to manage Barcelona, Lodeweges had the hosts primed for battle.

The Netherlands vs Poland highlights package tell the story of a one–sided affair for much of the game, but while the Netherlands dominated throughout, Poland stayed in the contest until the final minute.

The win puts the Dutch top of Group A1 and they’ll take some shifting.

 Highlights of the game

In the Netherlands’ first game post Koeman, they started well, taking early control of the ball and passing it around at ease. Poland were well organised but they had to soak up a fair amount of pressure which began to tell; after a great team move, Quincy Promes had a good sight of goal but screwed his shot horribly wide.

Virgil van Dijk is arguably the best defender in Europe and he showed just how good he is when a dangerous ball flew into the Netherlands penalty area, but he beat Poland striker Krzysztof Piatek with ease to clear the ball. The Liverpool man was in action at the other end when the Netherlands won a corner. Memphis Depay hit an out-swinging ball which Van Dijk met some six yards out but could only head down into the arms of Wojciech Szczesny.

Krzysztof Piatek kept the action high for Poland in their UEFA Nations League

Krzysztof Piatek in action against Steven Bergwijn during Poland’s clash against the Netherlands

Dutch keeper Jasper Cillessen was in action on the half-hour after a sweeping move from Poland. Wing back Tomasz Kedziora picked up the play on the overlap and pulled an intelligent ball back to Piatek who hit it the first time, but Cillessen stood firm to save.

Just as we were ready for a half time cup of tea, the Netherlands came very close to scoring when Frenkie de Jong beat the offside trap to collect a lofted ball on his chest, and he fired a low shot towards goal, but with Szczesny beaten the ball bounced back off the base of the post.

The Dutch came close again at the start of the second half when Depay met a swinging cross, but his first touch let him down and the ball ran to safety. Depay and Promes were lively in attack and causing the Polish defence plenty of problems, and eventually, the Dutch dominance paid off when they went ahead on the hour.

After they had defended so well, the visitors had a horrible mix-up at the back and Spurs winger Steven Bergwijn had the easiest job of the night to tap the ball into the empty net.

Key statistics

The pre-match Netherlands vs Poland betting odds here at SBOTOP had the hosts at 1.48 to win and once Bergwijn had broken the deadlock the result became inevitable.

The hosts dominated the first half and won the shot count by seven to two, while each team had one effort on target.

Without the striking presence of Lewandowski, Poland were reliant on Hertha striker Piatek and he worked hard but with little return. Lewandowski reckons he can play on until he’s 40 which is not good news for defenders in the Bundesliga, but it should give the 25-year-old Piatek some incentive.

But this was a tough night for Poland and by the end of the game, they hadn’t added to their first-half shot count while the Netherlands fired 14 shots in total and four on target.

The win extends the Netherlands’ unbeaten run against tonight’s opponents to eight, while Poland’s five-match unbeaten run has come to an end.

What’s next?

Next Monday the Netherlands have a blockbuster clash against Italy to look forward to while Poland has a testing away trip to face Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Italy were frustrated by Bosnia tonight and had to settle for a draw after Edin Dzeko had given the Bosnians a shock lead, and Azzurri boss Roberto Mancini will have them fired up for a clash against the Dutch.

It’s all to play for in Group A1 but Lodeweges can sleep well tonight wit a job well done.

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08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 2:04 PM (18 days ago)            #15
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UEFA Nations League: Honours Even Before Euro Play-Off

Scotland 1-1 Israel

This was always likely to be a closely contested UEFA Nations League clash.

Their recent meetings in the inaugural tournament had seen a win for each by a one-goal margin and so there was clearly little between the sides.

Throw in two new coaches and two sets of players aiming to make their mark and the scene was set for a hard-fought encounter.

A quick look at the UEFA Nations League betting odds here at SBOTOP showed that Scotland were favourites and looking to win four consecutive matches for the first time since October 2007.

Israel, in contrast, had only won one of their last seven fixtures. They’ve lost five including their latest two, and are 93rd in the world rankings – 53 places below Scotland.

However, football is rarely that simple to predict.

Highlights of the game

Israel arrived with a new head coach following Andreas Herzog’s resignation.

As the Israel FA’s sporting director, former Austria U-21 boss Willi Ruttensteiner had been instrumental in the appointment of his compatriot and had now succeeded him in a joint role in charge of the senior squad.

This was the first of two duels in four days for their new boss and a super venue to begin with.

Without fans, Hampden Park may not be the hotbed it normally is but it remains home and from where Scotland’s hope and heartbeat stems.

Crowd tries to boo off Scotland’s Ryan Christie to throw off his game during UEFA Nations League clash with Israel

Ryan Christie in action for Scotland against Israel at Hampden Park

Passion was something they had throughout the first half as they pressed the visitors from the start, enjoying long spells of possession even if their play was too often pedestrian and lacking penetration.

The main surprise saw midfielder Scott McTominay named at centre-back in a back three and he played a key role in the first real chance of the game just before the break.

At first, the Manchester United man misjudged a right-wing cross which reached Moannes Dabbur, but his goalbound header was saved by the diving David Marshall before McTominay redeemed himself by blocking the follow-up.

Moments later, a Scottish corner was headed down by lively debutant Lyndon Dykes towards John McGinn who was adjudged to have been fouled and Ryan Christie emphatically converted the resulting penalty.

Interestingly with no crowd, some of the Israel substitutes could be heard booing and shouting to try and put Christie off his spot-kick.

On the stroke of half-time, some would have thought the opener would be the cue for Scotland to go on and win and perhaps offer a repeat of the night a James Forrest hat-trick clinched promotion to this level of the tournament – a competition Portugal won on home soil last summer.

However, any further UEFA Nations League highlights belonged to Israel after the break and they earned a deserved share of the spoils 17 minutes from time.

After full-back Eli Dasa curled a superb cross into the danger zone that evaded everyone in the six-yard box, Israel came again and netted a fine equaliser.

Eran Zahavi received a throw-in, played a quick one-two on the edge of the area and volleyed the bouncing ball past Marshall.

With a point apiece, their re-match in a Euro 2020 play-off meeting in a month’s time will be even more tense.

Key statistics

Christie has been directly involved in seven goals in his last seven starts for Scotland (two goals, five assists).

Zahavi has been directly involved in 17 goals in his last 13 appearances for his country (14 goals, three assists). Both of Zahavi’s goals in the UEFA Nations League have been against Scotland at Hampden Park.

Scotland have drawn their first game since October 2017 in a match against Slovenia, ending a run of 21 consecutive matches without a draw.

This was the first time Israel had avoided defeat in an away game against Scotland, having lost their previous two visits in 1981 and 2018.

Scotland have won four and drawn one of their six meetings with Israel, losing the other in 2018.

What’s next?

It’s straight back into action on Monday for both nations.

Scotland travel to the Czech Republic while Israel host the other team in this group in Slovakia.

Israel return to Hampden next month where the winners of the European Championship play-off will be one game away from next summer’s tournament.

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08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 2:07 PM (18 days ago)            #16
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UEFA Nations League: Honours Even Before Euro Play-Off

Romania 1-1 Northern Ireland

Last night’s UEFA Nations League match between Romania and Northern Ireland did not disappoint at all with the drama and entertainment that it provided.

Northern Ireland left Bucharest last night with a positive result as they held Romania to a draw with a late equaliser.

For the most part, it looked like the home team was going to come away with a victory because their visitors simply couldn’t keep up.

However, substitute winger Gavin Whyte came in and saved the day for the Green and White via a timely header. It was a much-needed boost as his team was trailing for the whole evening.

Romania, on the other hand, were surely feeling down on themselves after the game. After all, they were backed to win by the UEFA Nations League 2020 odds as mentioned in the match preview.

And with Austria winning over Norway in the same night, they now hold the sole lead in Group B1 of the UEFA Nations League table with three points, while Romania and Northern Ireland are bunched together at the second and third spot with a point each.

Highlights of the game

Newly-minted Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough had a debut to remember, although things really didn’t go to plan at first.

His team didn’t perform well in the first few minutes and things looked bleak towards the end of the first half.

The UEFA Nations League 2020 highlights featured Romania as they dictated the tempo and they finally scored the first goal of the evening after a set piece in the 25th minute.

The ball was kicked right into the edge of the box to Nicolae Stanciu and then he shot the ball past multiple Northern Ireland defenders, but his attempt was blocked away by Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

Romania fail to hold to the lead as they settle for a UEFA Nations League draw

George Puscas celebrates after scoring the first goal of the match

Eventually, the ball popped up to Vlad Chiriches and he was able to find an open seam in the middle to deliver the ball to a cutting George Puscas for a cool finish.

Down by 1-0, what made things even worse for the Green and White army was when Josh Magennis was sent off in the 39th minute.

The Hull City forward was already given a yellow card when he caught Nicusor Bancu with a wayward elbow and then a similar challenge minutes later would prompt the referees to give him another one before the break.

In the second half, the 10-man Northern Ireland team continued to struggle as they can’t generate any big attacking opportunities.

In the 73rd minute, Corry Evans almost doubled Romania’s lead when he deflected Nicusor Bancu’s cross onto the post that was inches away from the net.

However, Northern Ireland aren’t going to wave the white flag just yet. And in the 86th minute, Ian Baraclough’s men would find the breakthrough that they needed.

Bailey Peacock-Farrell flicked the ball into the box and Kyle Lafferty tried to tap it in, but eventually Gavin Whyte would score the equaliser when he was at the right place and at the right time.

Romania almost retook the lead in more than a minute later, but Denis Alibec’s strong shot hit off the crossbar.

Key statistics

While Gavin Whyte was the obvious hero for Northern Ireland, let’s not forget Bailey Peacock-Farrell also as he turned in a fine performance for the Green and White army.

CLICK HERE

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

PREMIER LEAGUE
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The 23-year-old Burnley goalkeeper was excellent in his 15th cap for the team, two years after making his international debut in a friendly game against Panama.

Romania were in firm control for most of the night, they’ve had 73-per cent possession, and had 18 total shots along with nine of them on target.

Northern Ireland skipper Steven Davis is level with Pat Jennings in all-time appearances at 119. Meanwhile, last night was the debut game for Arsenal defender Daniel Ballard.

The 20-year-old made quite an impression in his first start despite having not played all year due to a torn ACL.

What’s next?

The UEFA Nations League preseason extravaganza continues here at SBOTOP.

Romania will take on Group B1 leaders Austria over at the Worthersee Stadion this upcoming Tuesday while Northern Ireland host Norway at Windsor Park on the same day.

Meanwhile, a seven-game slate will be on queue tomorrow.

In Group A2, Iceland and England go at it over at the Laugardalsvollur while the Danes will take on the world’s top-ranked team in Belgium.

In Group A3, Sweden host France at the Friends Arena while Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal take on Croatia at the Estadio do Dragao.

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08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 2:09 PM (18 days ago)            #17
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UEFA Nations League: Another Test for Young England

Denmark vs England

The first round of fixtures in UEFA Nations League Group A2 saw England struggle to a narrow win in Iceland, while Denmark lost at home to Belgium.

And so next up it’s UEFA Nations LeagueDenmark vs England at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen on Tuesday night. Gareth Southgate will charge his young guns with the task of making it two from two; but Denmark is never an easy place to go.

Talking Points

Denmark’s Euro class

Head coach Kasper Hjulmand, appointed in June, knows his side is in a very tough group, having already met the FIFA ranked world number one team Belgium in their opener.

UEFA Nations League: Martin Braithwaite has 7 international goals

Denmark’s Martin Braithwaite looking dejected after Belgium score the first goal

But there is no shortage of quality in the Denmark side, currently ranked 16th in the world and on the heels of European giants Italy, Netherlands and Germany. Inter Milan’s Christian Eriksen has been the nation’s star over the past decade, picking up 96 caps and scoring 31 goals, an excellent return for an attacking midfielder.

There is representation too from the Bundesliga, La Liga and Premier League. Borussia Dortmund’s Thomas Delaney has won five Danish Superligas with Copenhagen, and as an energetic box-to-box midfielder he has scored five goals in 44 international appearances.

Up front for the Danes, Leipzig’s Yussuf Poulson and Barca’s Martin Braithwaite have seven international goals each, while 21 year old Hoffenheim winger Jacob Bruun Larsen will hope to add to his one cap.

At the back Denmark have two big characters in captain Simon Kjaer and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. The 31 year old Milan defender who skippers the Danes has accumulated 96 caps, while Schmeichel, a Premier League winner with Leicester City, is one of the best keepers in Europe.

Under previous head coach Age Hareide, Denmark finished second in their Euro 2020 qualification group, registering four wins and four draws to book their place in next year’s showcase. And they will pose problems for any side…including England.

England

The Three Lions Euro 2016 rematch with Iceland ended in a 1-0 win but Southgate’s men made hard work of it and were lucky to escape with all three points. Iceland missed a stoppage time penalty after Joe Gomez’ clumsy challenge on Albert Gudmundsson gave the referee no option but to point to the spot. Thankfully for England, penalty taker Birkir Bjarnason missed, and that meant Raheem Sterling’s own penalty conversion, just two minutes earlier, won the points.

Southampton striker Danny Ings staked his claim to add to his one international cap having run Jamie Vardy close for the 2020 Premier League Golden Boot, finishing just one goal behind the Leicester forward, on 22, and with the best goals to minutes played ratio with a score every 128 minutes, well ahead of the likes of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling.

To achieve that at a mid table club like the Saints takes some doing and so Southgate gave him 20 minutes in Iceland, replacing debutant Phil Foden. Ings deserves a start but let’s see if the England boss agrees.

The pre-match Denmark vs England betting odds point to an away win, but the Danes have a superb home record so it will be no pushover for the visitors.

 History

The Three Lions have had the better of the head to head Denmark vs England results over the past four decades, winning five of the ten meetings while the Danes have won three and there have been two draws.

The last four clashes have all been friendly games, with the honours even at two wins each, the most recent game ending in a 1-0 victory for England back in 2014 when Daniel Sturridge scored a late winner for the Three Lions.

Recent form is good in both cases. Denmark won three and drew one of their four Euro 2021 qualifying games while England won three and lost one of their away fixtures.

And tonight’s defeat against Belgium was Denmark’s first loss in 16 games and the first defeat on home soil in 17.

Betting Tip

??
Denmark vs England Over 2.50 @ 1.89
September 9, 02:45 (GMT+8)

At odds of 3.88 to win the Danes are a long shot, while England are at 1.77 and the draw is available at 3.50.

But this will be a good test of Gareth Southgate’s young side and here at SBOTOP we expect a close encounter. 2-3 goals is available at odds of 1.80. But England can be free scoring and, equally, every one of their centre backs has a mistake in him.

I think we’ll see more than a couple of goals and a score line of 1-2 at odds of 6.56 could be a good outside bet.

Southgate would take that right now.

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08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 2:11 PM (18 days ago)            #18
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UEFA Nations League: England Ride Their Luck to Avoid More Icelandic Embarrassment

Iceland 0-1 England

It was anything but vintage – in fact, England rather got away with it!

But a late, late show in Reykjavik means their UEFA Nations League campaign is off to a winning start and, with it, the avoidance of embarrassment at the hands of Iceland for the second time in four years.

There was a minute of normal time remaining when Raheem Sterling chested down and shot with the ball adjudged to have hit the hand of Sverrir Ingason as he made the block. Ingason was harshly dismissed and Sterling converted the penalty.

Straight from the restart, centre-back Joe Gomez tangled with substitute Hólmbert Fridjónsson who went to ground.

Another spot-kick was awarded, but this time, Birkir Bjarnason — once of Aston Villa — fired his penalty high into the empty stands.

England had managed to win, even if they had done little to banish memories of their Euro 2016 defeat by the minnows.

Highlights of the game

UEFA Nations League: Iceland lose to England in their opening match

Iceland’s Sverrir Ingason in action against England’s Harry Kane in their latest UEFA Nations League encounter

Pre-match, I had remarked that this clash was possibly of limited importance to Iceland, given their players who opted not to play.

Meanwhile, England — playing their first international since November 2019 — clearly were expected to succeed and made eight changes from the starting XI that beat Kosovo 4-0 last time out.

Manchester City starlet Phil Foden was given his international debut, while captain Harry Kane, Sterling and Declan Rice were the only survivors from that game in Pristina.

Jordan Pickford replaced Nick Pope in goal and there were starts for Kyle Walker, Gomez, Eric Dier, Kieran Trippier, James Ward-Prowse and Jadon Sancho.

Perennial underdogs since struggling to live up to their fine showings at Euro 2016 and in the 2018 World Cup, it seemed Iceland were there for the taking early on.

Kane had the ball in the net but his effort was ruled out for offside as he stretched to touch home a Sterling cross.

Replays showed he was onside but there was no VAR and the decision, along with a gilt-edged miss from Rice in the 18th minute, did little to ease the frustrations of England, who became increasingly unable to break down their battling hosts.

The home manager, Erik Hamren, was already without six important players and he lost a seventh in the warm-up when Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, the striker who scored the winner against England four years ago, had to withdraw.

And so the match went on without any UEFA Nations League 2020 highlights of note before England were reduced to 10 men as Walker collected a second yellow card, marring his return to the international fold after a 15-month absence.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter and England prevailed with Man United teenager Mason Greenwood, who clearly impressed England captain Kane in training this week, among those given a chance from the bench.

On this evidence though, no wonder manager Gareth Southgate had already indicated more senior players will return to the squad next month.

Improve, or the SBOTOP UEFA Nations League 2020 betting odds on England bettering their third place in the inaugural competition will not even be worth considering.

Key statistics

Sterling has 17 goal involvements in his last 12 England appearances (11 goals, six assists).

This is the first time a Man City and a Man United player have made their England debut in the same game since September 1992, when Paul Ince (United) and David White (City) earned their first caps.

Walker is the first player to be sent off for England since Sterling against Ecuador in June 2014.

As a 68th minute substitute, Danny Ings made his first appearance for England since October 2015 – 1,790 days ago. It’s the longest gap between England games for an outfielder since Arsenal full-back Lee Dixon went 1,911 days between 1993 and 1999.

England have scored 47 goals in their past 14 matches (won 11, drawn one, lost two) – their 38 goals during 2019 was their most in a year since 1966 (also 38) and bettered in only one previous calendar year when they netted 39 in 1908.

What’s next?

Both nations have tough assignments on Tuesday evening (September 8).

Iceland travel to Belgium to meet the third-best team in the world at the 2018 World Cup, while England are in Copenhagen to meet Denmark.

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08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 2:15 PM (18 days ago)            #19
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UEFA Nations League: Mbappe Is France’s Hero… Again

Sweden 0-1 France

France have begun their new UEFA Nations League campaign with a victory tonight in a clinical display to beat Sweden at the Friends Arena in Stockholm.

Les Bleus kicked off as favourites to lift the title and a brilliant solo effort from Kylian Mbappe sent them on their way.

Sweden are no slouches, reaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup at Russia 2018, and they have also qualified for Euro 2021 to make it six European finals on the run. But while France were not at their best, the hosts simply couldn’t create enough clear-cut chances to earn a result.

So Les Bleus make a winning start, and in other UEFA Nations League 2020 results tonight, there were victories for England, who beat Iceland with an injury-time goal, holders Portugal, who saw off Croatia 4-1, and Belgium who beat Denmark.

Highlights of the game

Sweden's efforts weren't enough to defeat France in the UEFA Nations League

Sweden’s Marcus Berg in action against France’s N’Golo Kante and Presnel Kimpembe during their recent UEFA Nations League clash

The first half told a story of two international teams which had little time to prepare and players who were fatigued from domestic duties, or undercooked.

The first action of the game was a booking for France debutant, 21-year-old Dayot Upamecano, when the centre-back picked up a yellow card for a clumsy challenge.

And that was about it until Sweden fired a warning shot on 19 minutes. France keeper Hugo Lloris couldn’t see any danger when Mikael Lustig lines up a shot from distance, he hit it sweetly but it whistled inches wide of the post.

The pace of play was slow and considered, and neither side looked likely to breach the opposite defence, though the experienced Marcus Berg forced Lloris into an acrobatic save as half-time approached.

But then champions do what champions do, and with their first shot on goal France went ahead.

And it was that man Mbappe putting on a show of individual brilliance to give Les Bleus a half-time lead. The Paris Saint-Germain man took on two defenders inside the penalty area before sliding the ball past Robin Olsen from the narrowest of angles.

Mbappe had been quiet throughout the first period, but when he had an opening he showed what a world-class player he is.

Even though his team was ahead, Didier Deschamps had work to do at half-time, and Les Bleus looked a little more adventurous after the break.

Full-back Lucas Digne sent over a superb cross which Olivier Giroud met, but his header sailed just wide of the post. Sweden are always dangerous and Seb Larsson tried his luck from distance but his effort flew narrowly wide.

And that was about it. It was never a classic, but that one moment of genius from Mbappe was enough and worthy of winning the three points. Sweden will feel they could have shared the spoils but in all honesty, France keeper Hugo Lloris had a comfortable night.

Key statistics

The pre-match UEFA Nations League 2020 betting odds placed Les Bleus at 1.73 to win, and on balance they Deschamps’ side just about deserved the victory.

France had a single shot in the first half, hard to believe with a front line of Mbappe, Giroud and Antoine Griezmann, but that was all they needed to take a half-time lead.

Deschamps men were marginally more expansive in the second half, but still lost the shot count by nine to seven, though Sweden could only register two efforts on target.

The defeat was a first for Janne Andersson’s Sweden in eight games, while Les Bleus have now won six from the last seven.

What’s next?

Didier Deschamps clearly has one eye on Euro 2021 when he hopes to add a European crown to Les Bleus’ World title. But in the meantime, the SBOTOP UEFA Nations League cracks on this week and we have some mouth-watering fixtures to look forward to.

On Matchday 2, we have a re-run of the 2018 World Cup final on the agenda when France meet Croatia, while Sweden entertain the 2019 Nations League champions Portugal, who won well against the Croats tonight.

Before a ball was kicked, Les Bleus were favourites to win the competition, and odds on to win Group A3 at odds of 1.80, and we’ve seen nothing tonight to doubt that. But they may need to up their game against Portugal and Croatia.

Sweden are the underdog in the group but all is not lost just yet.

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08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 2:18 PM (18 days ago)            #20
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UEFA Nations League: Ronaldo-less Portugal Rout Croatia

Portugal 4-1 Croatia

Reigning UEFA Nations League champions Portugal made a perfect start to their title defence as they thumped World Cup finalists Croatia 4-1 in Porto despite missing talisman Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo was sidelined due to a toe infection, which has delayed his quest to reach 100 career international goals.

But as SBOTOP pointed out in the preview for this match, Portugal possess a wealth of young attacking options in their squad, and they proved with this impressive performance that the country’s future post-Ronaldo is really bright.

Highlights of the game

The big UEFA Nations League 2020 news for Portugal was that Atletico Madrid youngster Joao Felix would lead the attack in Ronaldo’s absence as a false nine, with Wolves’ Diogo Jota and Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva on either side.

Meanwhile, Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes also started in a three-man midfield alongside Joao Moutinho and Danilo.

Croatia had the first crack at goal as Nikola Vlasic’s shot went just wide. But after that, Portugal controlled the play and created a number of opportunities which tested Croatia keeper Dominik Livakovic. The 25-year-old made some timely saves to deny Bruno Fernandes and Joao Cancelo.

Livakovic once again came to Croatia’s rescue on 25 minutes as he produced an amazing double save to deny veteran centre-back Pepe, once from a header off a corner and again on the rebound.

Minutes later, Portugal hit the post through a Diogo Jota header. The Wolves man also fired into the side netting with a powerful shot.

The home side would hit the post again on 33 minutes after a brilliant effort from Raphael Guerreiro. The ball then ricocheted onto a diving Livakovic’s legs, but it somehow went out of play instead of into his goal.

Portugal seemingly needed something special to beat Livakovic, and Joao Cancelo produced just that to open the scoring on 41 minutes. The Manchester City man unleashed a spectacular long-range strike which flew right into the top corner. Livakovic still got a slight touch on the ball, but he was not going to stop that shot.

Portugal continued to pile on the pressure in the second half as they went in search of a second goal, which they got right before the hour mark. Jota and Guerreiro combined beautifully on a give-and-go, and after getting behind the Croatia defence, the Wolves striker kept his composure and slotted past Livakovic.

Joao Felix scores a goal to help Portugal win against Croatia in UEFA Nations League

Joao Felix celebrates after scoring his first international goal with Portugal in UEFA Nations League game with Croatia

Portugal then sealed the win with a third on 70 minutes through Joao Felix. Likavokic was unable to keep out the Atletico forward’s thunderous shot from the edge of the box as the 20-year-old celebrated his first career goal for his country in his sixth senior cap.

Croatia salvaged some pride by claiming a consolation goal through substitute Bruno Petkovic in stoppage time. A mistake from Cancelo allowed the Croatians to create a good chance, and Petkovic made no mistake with his finish.

But the home side would still have the last say in the match as Andre Silva grabbed a fourth with the very last kick of the game.

It was a fitting end to a fantastic all-around performance from Portugal and their promising new generation.

Key statistics

Even without Ronaldo, Portugal were utterly dominant against Croatia, who struggled mightily to make the game competitive without Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic pulling the strings in midfield.

The home side had 57 per cent of possession and fired an incredible 27 shots, 11 of which were on target. Meanwhile, Croatia only had five shots, two on target.

Jota impressed in his very first start for his country as he had a team-high five shots. Joao Felix and Bruno Fernandes also had four shots each for Portugal, who are now unbeaten in their five Nations League group games (three wins, two draws).

What’s next?

 Portugal will look to build off this excellent result in next Nations League assignment away to Sweden on September 9. However, Ronaldo remains doubtful to play in that match against the Swedes due to his toe infection, Portugal coach Fernando Santos said post-match.

But after Portugal’s performance against Croatia, the UEFA Nations League 2020 betting odds should still have them as comfortable favourites against the Swedes, who fell 1-0 to France in their first Nations League match.

Meanwhile, Croatia will next take on defending world champions France in their World Cup final rematch. But without midfield maestros Modric and Rakitic, it will be tough for the Croatians to pick up a positive result.

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08-Sep 2020 Tuesday 2:19 PM (18 days ago)            #21
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UEFA Nations League: France, Croatia Collide in World Cup Final Rematch

France vs Croatia

France and Croatia will face off in the UEFA Nations League, their first meeting since the French ran out 4-2 winners in the 2018 World Cup final.
However, this will be a much-changed Croatia side that will be without both Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic. They missed their midfield maestros badly as they suffered a disastrous 4-1 defeat to Portugal in their opening match.

France won their first match 1-0 against Sweden, although they did not look all that convincing while playing a new formation. Nevertheless, the UEFA Nations League 2020 odds still have them as significant favourites to make it wins out of two against the shorthanded Croatians.

Talking Points

France’s formation experiment falls flat

France got their Nations League campaign off to a winning start in Sweden, but their performance was not impressive.

UEFA Nations League: Didier Deschamps is expecting France to win against the shorthanded Croatians

Didier Deschamps during France training session

Manager Didier Deschamps decided to experiment with the formation of his starting line-up as he played with three at the back of Presnel Kimpembe, Dayot Upamecano, and Raphael Varane, and a front three of Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud, and Antoine Griezmann.

Meanwhile, they played Adrien Rabiot and N’Golo Kante in midfield, which did not provide much creativity.

That strange formation saw France fail to produce too many UEFA Nations League 2020 highlights; they had just seven shots in total, two fewer than Sweden. Their only shot on target was Mbappe’s moment of brilliance, which resulted in the winning goal.

Deschamps said post-match that he was satisfied with the result, but acknowledged that their attacking performance needed improvement.

Still, there’s a decent chance Deschamps will stick with this new system and see if they can play much better against Croatia, who were simply torn to shreds by Portugal in their first match.

And even if France struggle to create chances once again, they can still count on the likes of Mbappe, Griezmann, and Anthony Martial — who came on as a substitute and won a late penalty against Sweden — to produce a moment of magic and pick up another victory.

Croatia miss midfield stars badly

Croatia were completely outplayed by Portugal in their opening match. With Modric and Rakitic not around to help out in midfield, Portugal were able to control 57 per cent of possession and had a whopping 27 shots, 11 on target.

Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic made some important saves in the first half, and they would’ve suffered an even heavier defeat if he didn’t.

It also didn’t help that two other key players — midfielder Marcelo Brozovic and winger Ivan Perisic — started on the bench and only came on as substitutes in the second half. It was understandable that they didn’t start given their long European campaigns with their respective clubs, but Croatia also could have used them.

It remains to be seen whether Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic will start Brozovic and Perisic against France. But if he doesn’t, the Croatians could once again struggle to create many chances as they did against Portugal, where they had just five total shots.

Andrej Kramaric and Ante Rebic were complete non-factors against Portugal. And now, they will face a France defence that does not give up too many goals.

History

France have dominated their somewhat limited head-to-head history with Croatia. The two countries have met six times overall, and the French are undefeated with four wins and two draws.

Croatia held the French to a 2-2 draw in Euro 2004 and to a goalless draw in a 2011 friendly. But France completely outplayed them when they met in the 2018 World Cup final.

After Perisic cancelled out Mario Mandzukic’s early own-goal, goals from Griezmann, Paul Pogba, and Mbappe led France to a 4-2 win as they became world champions for the second time.

Betting Tip

??

France vs Croatia First Half 1X2 France @ 2.32
September 9, 02:45 (GMT+8)

SBOTOP odds have France installed as heavy 1.62 favourites to grab the home win, with Croatia priced at 5.20. A draw is 3.70.

There’s not much value in the 1X2 odds for a France win, but their First Half 1X2 odds of 2.32 are quite interesting and deserve some strong consideration.

France will be eager to make up for their underwhelming showing against Sweden at home, which could see them get off to a strong start. And after seeing Croatia’s poor performance against Portugal, it seems unlikely that the visitors give the home side too many problems.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (??) BETS ARE WORTH:
?? = €20 (HIGHLY CONFIDENT) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 08-Sep-2020 at 2:20 PM


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10-Sep 2020 Thursday 1:03 PM (16 days ago)            #22
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UEFA Nations League: England Fail to Fire in Copenhagen

Denmark 0-0 England

Denmark held England to a draw in tonight’s UEFA Nations League clash at the Parken Stadium as Gareth Southgate’s Lions made it four points from their opening two games.

The result leaves the Danes on a single point and they are yet to score a goal, having lost their opener to Belgium, but they had the better of this match.

The Three Lions stumbled past Iceland in their opening fixture, winning with a late penalty. They were slow to get into their stride again tonight, but they almost snatched a winner at the death, and that would have been very hard on their hosts.

Highlights of the game

England simply weren’t at the races in the first half as Denmark took control of the game. In the early exchanges, Nice striker Kasper Dolberg had the better of England debutant Conor Coady and found space to take a pot shot at goal, but he fired it over the bar.

Daniel Wass sent a cross in which almost fell to Yussuf Poulsen, but Liverpool centre-back Joe Gomez hoofed the ball clear as the hosts continued to show more attacking intent.

This Denmark team has plenty of class about it, with players from each of the top European leagues. Barcelona’s Martin Braithwaite was next to make a mark, controlling a headed clearance from Coady, then sidestepping England’s other new boy, Kalvin Phillips, before firing a shot just wide of the far post.

As half-time approached Christian Eriksen made easy work of beating Eric Dier before sliding the ball into the path of Dolberg, who got a fierce shot away. But this time it was too close to Jordan Pickford, who managed to palm the ball to safety.

Christian Eriksen’s failed to give Denmark a win against England in the UEFA Nations League

Christian Eriksen in action against England’s Kalvin Phillips during their recent Nations League clash

That save took England to half-time still level, but the hosts would have felt they should have been ahead against a team bereft of ideas.

The visitors started a little more brightly in the second half, but after a brief spell on the back foot Denmark came out on the attack again. Eriksen fed Robert Skov who fired a dangerous cross in but Gomez was there to clear his lines again. Thomas Delaney then unleashed a shot from distance straight at Pickford.

The Danes were sniffing a goal, but desperation set in when Eriksen smashed a 35-yard free-kick over the bar.

England skipper Harry Kane hadn’t seen much of the ball and was struggling to eke out a chance. He did get his head to a Mason Mount cross but he couldn’t hit the target.

That finally seemed to spark England into life and Raheem Sterling cut in from the left flank before testing Kasper Schmeichel with a fizzing low shot.

On 81 minutes Denmark had a glorious chance to win it when Poulsen met a cross from Wass and nodded it back to Eriksen on the penalty spot, but the Inter man blasted his shot over the bar.

Kane almost snatched another late win deep into stoppage time when Schmeichel rushed out and missed his catch. The Spurs man slid the ball towards goal but it was cleared off the line.

Key statistics

Our pre-match Denmark vs England betting tips had the draw at odds of 3.50, and by the end of the game that was just about right.

Without the youthful zest of Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden, both axed for breaching COVID rules, England were as flat as a pancake in the first half, registering just one shot to Denmark’s five and the Lions had just four touches in the opposition penalty area.

 The visitors improved in the second half but lost the shot count by 11 to six, and they will be happy to return home with a point.

What’s next?

In tonight’s other UEFA Nations League 2020 results the big news from Group A2 was that Belgium came back from a goal down to hammer Iceland 5-1, which takes the Red Devils to the top of the group.

The Nations League resumes again in a month’s time when England take on Belgium at Wembley Stadium on 11th October and Iceland host Denmark in Reykjavík.

Before that the big leagues in Europe start again, so keep an eye out for the latest SBOTOP tips in the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A.

The transfer market is in full swing too, so now is not the time to take your eyes off the fantastic world of football!

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 10-Sep-2020 at 5:28 PM


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