2018-19 UEFA Nations League Betting Tips and Preview | Individual Group & Outright Winners
In the wake of Liverpool’s 0-0 draw at home to Manchester City at the start of October, Kop boss Jürgen Klopp declared the Nations League to be ‘the most senseless competition in the world’. Domestic managers are rarely pleased when their charges are sent off to play in international friendlies, with injuries not uncommon after an intense run of fixtures. Klopp said, “We have to start thinking about the players. You have to call the manager of any country and say can you leave players out and he says I am under pressure as well”. Yet whilst the Liverpool manager might not be all that excited about the existence of the Nations League, for punters it’s another opportunity to make some money out of bookmakers thanks to the number of matches involved.
Here we’ll have a quick look at what the Nations League involves and the bets that you might want to place as the newest competition under the control of UEFA gets underway. Klopp and his fellow Premier League managers might not be in favour of of an overly complicated competition that seems to make international friendlies more competitive than they need to be, but if you play your cards right and do a bit of research then you might well find yourself in a position where you can place some winning bets and take advantage of offers from the bookies. After all, football is still football whether it’s played as a friendly or a fiercely competitive match and doing some research will always make you more likely to see some returns than otherwise.
Looking for Nations League Betting Offers along with detailed information about the format, schedule and groups, then also see our UEFA Nations League page?
What Is The Nations League and How Does It Work?
First and foremost, before we get into the nitty gritty of the bets you can place on the Nations League, it’s important to understand what it’s all about. It involves all fifty-five nations that come under the UEFA banner, with the various countries divided into four different leagues based upon the co-efficient of each nation. That will see nations go up against teams with a similar ranking, which should reduce the number of utterly pointless matches between countries that are extremely strong and others that are really there to make up the numbers.
Each league is further split into four playing groups that are made up of three or four teams. The winners will be promoted to the group above where possible, whilst those that perform the worst will be relegated down a division. The draw for which teams entered which group within each league took place in January of 2018 and the matches got underway in September of the same year. The hope is that the Nations League will become something of an intermediate international tournament to engage football fans in the years when there is neither a World Cup nor a European Championship taking place, with the games occurring during the already existing international breaks.
The winners of the four groups in League A will qualify for the finals that are due to take place in the summer of 2019, with semi-finals, a third-place match and a final all scheduled. The reason that domestic managers like Jürgen Klopp aren’t overly enamoured with it is that they don’t replace qualifiers for the likes of the Euros or World Cup but instead run alongside them, meaning that there are more games that will be treated competitively rather than less. That said, there are sixteen play-off places available via the Nations League, meaning that some nations will take them seriously as they offer something of a backdoor to the bigger competition.
The big questions you’ll want answering, of course, is what bets you should be looking to place now that we know roughly what the competition is all about.
As mentioned, League A has been split up into four different groups, so we’ll have a look at each of them in turn:
Group 1: France, Germany, Netherlands
France’s victory at the World Cup has certainly made them favourites to walk away from Group 1 as winners; especially when you take into account the poor performance of Germany during the same tournament.
That said, you’d still have your money on the Germans to be the most likely to trouble France as Group 1 winners considering that the Netherlands didn’t even make it to Russia in the summer.
Group 1 Winner: France (2/5)
Group 2: Belgium, Iceland, Switzerland
Belgium continues to be the country that underwhelms, with Roberto Martinez’s side tipped for greatness ahead of the World Cup but ultimately falling short. They won all three of their Group G matches but couldn’t find a way past eventual winners France in the semi-final phase.
I’d still be mad not to place a bet on them to win Group 2 of League A, given that Iceland finished bottom of Group D and Switzerland lost to Sweden in the last sixteen match in the summer.
Group 2 Winner: Belgium (4/11)
Group 3: Italy, Poland, Portugal
Group 3 is another one with a clear favourite, given that Portugal are the current defending European Championship winners and Italy didn’t even make it to the World Cup in 2018. Portugal did and promptly got knocked out in the last sixteen phase, but they still did better than Poland who finished bottom of a group that contained Colombia, Japan and Senegal.
Group 3 Winner: Portugal (8/13)
Group 4: Croatia, England, Spain
It’s odd that the most interesting group of League A is the final one, but that’s where we are. England, Croatia and Spain all have something about them that means that they will fancy themselves to cause their opposite numbers some issues. Spain might have under-performed at the World Cup but they’re already showing signs of adapting to the new style of play that Luis Enrique wants them playing.
England might have done far better in the summer than many expected them to, but Gareth Southgate’s men were never really threatened and he showed his tactical naivety as soon as they came up against a half-decent side.
Group 4 Winner: Spain (1/4)
League B is arguably the most interesting one to have a flutter on, thanks in no small part to the fact that each group is relatively well-balanced. Here’s where we will be placing our bets:
Group 1: Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine
You can’t base all of your bets on the World Cup of 2018, if for no other reason than none of the teams features in Group 1 of League B even made it to Russia.
If you only looked at past performances in major tournaments then you might say that the Czech Republic were the team most likely to come away from this group with a win, but Ukraine started the Nations League well and put themselves in poll position. The interesting bet is probably on who will take the runners-up spot, with Slovakia the likely favourites.
Group 1 Winner: Ukraine (1/6)
Group 2: Russia, Sweden, Turkey
If you were to pick one team that outperformed their expectation in the World Cup then it would unquestionably be Russia.
Buoyed on by the support of the home crowds and the work of the team’s medical staff to ensure that everyone was fit and firing, the hosts made it all the way to the quarter-finals and only lost on penalties to eventually finalists Croatia. Sweden made it to the same stage but couldn’t make it past England, meaning that they’re the favourites to finish as runners-up.
Group 2 Winner: Russia (2/5)
Group 3: Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Ireland
It’s important to remember that we’re writing this piece after the first set of fixtures have taken place, so the bookmakers have already been given a bit of insight into which teams look the most likely to win each group.
Ordinarily you might expect Austria to look the strongest, but Bosnia and Herzegovina’s performance in the opening games mean that they’ve caught the attention of the bookmakers. That means that there’s a bit more money to be made if you look elsewhere, however, so I’ll be punting on Austria.
Group 3 Winner: Austria (13/8)
Group 4: Denmark, Republic of Ireland, Wales
League B Group 4 is perhaps the toughest to call, with Gareth Bale always likely to produce a bit of magic for Wales and the Republic of Ireland never far away from becoming the whipping boys of any group that they find themselves in.
Denmark perhaps started the best of the three, but the value is there if you want to look away from them before the final set of fixtures are played in November.
Group 4 Winner: Wales (7/4)
The third league of the competition is one that features teams that will be targeting the competition as a backdoor into the European Championships, so it’s fair to expect this to be the most competitive of all. Here are our betting tips for each group:
Group 1: Albania, Israel, Scotland
It’s been some time since Scotland found themselves in a major tournament, with the side having failed to make it into either the World Cup or Euros since the 1990s. It’s entirely reasonable to think they’ll be pouring everything into winning a poor group, therefore, and the bookmakers agree with that assumption.
There’s no obvious favourite, so where you put your money here is more of an instinct.
Group 1 Winner: Scotland (1/1)
Group 2: Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary
It feels like a long time now since Greece won the Euros and, in footballing terms, it is. The nation has been more concerned with political travails in recent years than its footballing exploits, but they might well see this as an opportunity to get back in to the papers for all of the right reasons.
It’s actually a close group that’s tough to call, with only Estonia being seen as unlikely to cause anyone any real issues.
Group 2 Winner: Hungary (6/4)
Group 3: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Norway, Slovenia
It’s no surprise that the groups with four teams rather than three are looking like the closest to call after the first group of matches are out of the way, but not many people think that Slovenia or Cyprus stand much chance here.
There’s not a huge amount to call between Bulgaria and Norway, however, so choosing the team that you think is most likely to win the mini-league between the two of them.
Group 3 Winner: Norway 7/4
Group 4: Lithuania, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia
Group 4 is perhaps the one that has the most obvious loser and the most likely winner, with the only real question mark coming in the form of which side will finish as the runner-up. Serbia have caused problems for bigger teams over the years, whilst Lithuania most certainly haven’t.
Romania and Montenegro are the definition of ‘making up the numbers’ teams, but it’s the Romanians that probably have the edge in terms of which of them are most likely to come second.
Group 4 Winner: Serbia (8/13)
Like it or not, League D is when the matches start to become the sort of ones that the critics of the Nations League feared would dominate the competition; games between teams that really have little place being in the European Championship in the first place. Here’s where we think:
Group 1: Andorra, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Latvia
Reading more like a grouping from the EuroVison Song Contest than a self-respecting football tournament, League D’s Group 1 has an obvious favourite for promotion in the form of Georgia.
Latvia are the most likely to challenge them, whilst Andorra give the impression of a side that’s just grateful to have been invited to take part in anything at all. Not exactly a thriller, but chuck Georgia into an accumulator with some of the other groups if you fancy placing some sort of bet on them.
Group 1 Winner: Georgia (1/9)
Group 2: Belarus, Luxembourg, Moldova, San Marino
If Group 1 is a collection of EuroVision Song Contest entrants then Group 2 feels like a collection of countries that the United Nations will depend on to get some sort of vote taken to declare sanctions on a rogue nation.
Belarus are the standout favourites but you might do well to look at Luxembourg if you’re hoping for slightly longer but no less likely odds. San Marino will simply be hoping to win a match at some point in the entire contest and will be grateful they don’t have to be spanked by England, Spain and the likes as in previous years.
Group 2 Winner: Luxembourg (15/8)
Group 3: Azerbaijan, Faroe Islands, Kosovo, Malta
Group 3 isn’t as close as you might expect after the first set of matches, with Kosovo catching the eye of bookmakers as the team most likely to make their way out of it. Azerbaijan are the surprise outsiders, whilst Malta have gained the respect of precisely nobody.
The Faroe Islands are a team to look at for Each-Ways bet on if you’re trying to think outside the box.
Group 3 Winner: Kosovo (1/2)
Last but not least comes League D, Group 4. This is really the one that makes a mockery of the idea of the Nations League being in any way competitive and encouraged Herr Klopp to refer to it as ‘the most senseless competition in the world’. That said, the Liverpool manager doesn’t need to worry about any of his players taking part in this particular group any time soon.
Macedonia and Armenia are the most likely to wrack up the points, with Gibraltar mainly in it because they had to be put somewhere.
Group 4 Winner: Macedonia (1/4)
Overall UEFA Nations League Winner
If you’re looking to place a bet that will be more interesting to follow than needing to keep an eye on each League and Group and negate the need to understand the overly convoluted format that UEFA have opted for with the Nations League then you’ll be wanting to think about which team is most likely to win it overall.
A quick look at the bookies’ odds will tell you that all of the usual suspects are there or there about, with Spain the overall favourites at 11/4. Germany will feel as though they’ve got something to prove after such a dismal World Cup outing in the summer of 2018, however, so you’d be mad to overlook their odds of 13/2.
As mentioned earlier, Gareth Southgate demonstrated his tactical naivety during the World Cup when his England team came up against a semi-decent team in Croatia, so you’d be mad to think that they’re likely to win the tournament. That said, it would be typical English to end fifty years of hurt by winning such an utterly pointless tournament and odds of 16/1 for them to do that are certainly tempting.
The last team worthy of a mention here is France, who ended their barren spell when they beat Croatia in the World Cup final. Didier Deschamps’ side failed to thrill anyone during the tournament but they did enough to lift the trophy and will be keen to show that that wasn’t just a flash in the pan. Filled with some exciting young talent in the likes of Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé but balanced out with some older heads, they’ll cause problems if they make it to the finals.