2022/23 UEFA Nations League A predictions: England will win

The 2022/23 UEFA Nations League season kicks off in a matter of days, making it the perfect time to predict how the tournament will unfold. This is the fourth and final article in a series that will predict each group. It’s finally time to predict Nations League A. Specifically, the teams that will qualify for the Nations League final and be relegated.

UEFA Nations League A predictions 2022/23

France favorites face stiff competition from Denmark

Group A1 includes reigning world champions France alongside their 2018 World Cup final opponents Croatia. Denmark were on the threshold of a European final last summer and will be eager to continue their successful hunt this Nations League season. An inconsistent Austria completes the group.

As reigning world champions and the team with the strongest squad in the group, one might be tempted to instantly declare France the winner of the group. It’s not that simple, however. Not only because of France poor Euro 2020 display, but also due to their tendency to drop points against weaker teams in World Cup qualifying. Denmark actually outclassed France in both competitions. Blues‘harder opposition only partly justifies this, but not entirely.

One possible explanation for France’s occasional disappointing scores is that they are a team that tends to do just enough to win, but nothing more. Like in the 2018 World Cup, where they won everything despite their mediocrity in the group stage. No team came close to claiming direct qualification ahead of France, meaning a draw was often enough for them. Moreover, they proved to be strong in the Nations League last season winning a very competitive group.

Denmark are also a good team. Looking at the clubs represented by a Denmark national team starting line-up, one could be forgiven for thinking it belongs to teams like the Netherlands or Germany. A sentiment still reflected in the Elo ratings. Denmark reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2020 was a legitimately strong team that lived up to expectations, not some sensational underdog story. Anyway, France are just a stronger team and should therefore be favored. The depth of their team is incredible. However, Denmark have a chance of reaching the final before France.

Solid Croatia set to avoid relegation from Nations League A

Croatia, while still strong, have declined too much since their peak in 2018 to be considered a top contender. Their performance in the World Cup qualifiers is comparable to what France and Denmark have achieved. Croatia’s performance at the Euros was similar to that of France, both relegated to the round of 16 magic monday, but Blues‘ group was more difficult.

Croatia’s performance in the previous Nations League season is concerning. To get just three points in a group that, in all honesty, was very difficult. Nevertheless, France and Denmark’s point tallies were too high for Croatia to be excused by the difficulty of their group, especially France, with whom they shared groups. Croatia’s Elo rating works as another tiebreaker.

However, the Croatians are likely to be favored over Austria, who have been poor in World Cup qualifying despite having a strong Euro campaign. Austria’s inconsistency, combined with their side being the weakest in the group, makes relegation likely unless new Ralf Rangnick can bring the Wunderteam 1930s, or at least the form they showed at the Euro.

Spain at the forefront of highly competitive groups

Group A2 is interesting with Spain and Portugal which will compose a highly anticipated Iberian derby. It has the potential to be very exciting. Likewise, Switzerland have had some exciting matches in recent years and also call this group their home. The Czech Republic completes the group.

The Czech Republic are solid, but this group is too competitive for them not to finish fourth. Their team and performance in World Cup qualifying is worse than any other team in this group. It should be noted that the Czechs went further than Portugal at the Euro. However, it’s too anecdotal to save the Czech Republic from relegation in these predictions.

Switzerland cannot be underestimated. They slightly outclassed Portugal in World Cup and Euro qualifiers. Meanwhile, Portugal enjoys a slightly higher Elo rating and a stronger squad. In other words, Portugal and Switzerland are indistinguishable. Spain narrowly eclipsed them at the Euros and World Cup qualifiers, making them the narrowest of favourites. Plus, their Elo rating is microscopically superior.

But make no mistake: the battle for first place is a three-horse race. One that will probably be extraordinarily close. Spain, Portugal and even Switzerland can win it.

England win group of death

Group A3 is terrifying. It contains the teams that made up the Euro final last year, Italy and England. Alongside those two are a German side in search of redemption with a successful and relatively newly appointed manager, Hansi Flick, who recently guided Bayern Munich to a UEFA Champions League title. Even the group’s presumptive ‘whipping boys’, Hungary, have produced impressive results over the past two years. Either way, there’s no denying that they’ll almost certainly be relegated. All the other teams in this staggering group are simply better.

Had Italy maintained the form they showed at the Euros, they might have been the marginal favorite to finish top, but things have changed since then. After dropping points against Bulgaria, Switzerland and Northern Ireland in the World Cup qualifiers, the Azzuri lost terribly at home to North Macedonia and missed back-to-back World Cups for the first time in their history. At this point, Italy are a bit behind England and Germany until proven otherwise.

Germany also recently suffered a devastating loss to North Macedonia in the European Qualifiers, but Die Mannschaft recovered well by winning the remaining matches. Germany’s big comeback from their disastrous defeat meant their World Cup qualifying performance was on par with that of England, who dropped points against Poland and Hungary. However, England eclipsed Germany in the previous Nations League season and at Euro 2020. In fact, The Three Lions even defeated Die Mannschaft to the euro. Hansi Flick can very well get Germany back on their feet and top of the group, but England are still the favorites heading into the competition.

The Belgian “Golden Generation” has more to give

Group A4 offers a potentially exhilarating Benelux derby between Belgium and the Netherlands. A Poland inspired by Robert Lewandowski can also be found here. They’re not a one-man team, though. Finally, the group contains a Welsh team led by Gareth Bale.

Belgium should be seen as the favorites to advance to the final, although they will face fierce competition from their northern neighbours, the Netherlands. Either way, the Belgians got more points per game in World Cup qualifiers and the previous Nations League season than any other team in the group. If that wasn’t enough, they also outplayed all their upcoming Group A4 opponents at Euro 2020. The Red Devils are always the first in this group.

By the same logic, it can be assumed that the Netherlands will not have to participate in the relegation battle. That clash will likely be fought by Poland and Wales, who kick off this Nations League season on June 1. The match will probably be tight. Wales edged past Poland at the Euros and Poland slightly eclipsed Wales in World Cup qualifying. Likewise, their Elo ratings are too even to draw conclusions. With unscientific ‘gut feeling’ as the tiebreaker, the verdict of this article is that Wales will be relegated by a tiny margin.

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