Nations League: How is the 2020-21 tournament shaping up at the halfway point?

Portugal celebrate winning the inaugural Nations League
Portugal are the reigning Nations League champions

After games on Saturday and Sunday the 2020-21 Nations League group stage has reached the halfway point.

But how is the tournament shaping up? Who looks set to reach the finals tournament? Who is on course for promotion and relegation?

If you’ve missed any of the action, here’s how things stand…

How are the home nations doing?

Group A2 in the Nations League showing England top and Belgium, Denmark and Iceland in second, third and fourth respectively

England’s 2-1 comeback win against Belgium has left Gareth Southgate’s side top of group A2 and with their destiny in their own hands.

If they win home games against Denmark on Wednesday and Iceland next month they will travel to Belgium (also next month) needing to avoid defeat to reach the finals tournament for the second successive time.

That competition, between the four League A group winners, is set to be held in October or November 2021.

Group B2 in the Nations League showing Scotland top and Czech Republic, Israel and Slovakia second, third and fourth respectively

Scotland’s 1-0 victory over Slovakia on Sunday maintained their slender advantage over the Czech Republic at the top of Group B2 and ensures their hopes of promotion to League A are very much alive.

Steve Clarke’s side host the Czechs on Wednesday, in a game that is likely to have a huge bearing on who finishes top.

Group B4 in the Nations League showing Wales top and Finland, Republic of Ireland and Bulgaria second, third and fourth respectively

Despite their goalless draw against the Republic of Ireland, Wales are in pole position to gain promotion from group B4. Ryan Giggs’ side are the only unbeaten team in the group and know that a strong second half to the campaign is likely to be enough for them to be in League A next time out. They play Finland, who trail them by one point, in the final group game.

The Republic, meanwhile, are in danger of being relegated to League C. They are yet to win in this year’s competition and their final fixture at home to Bulgaria could be a relegation decider.

Group B1 in the Nations League showing Austria top and Norway, Romania and Northern Ireland in second, third and fourth respectively

Another side who are winless and facing the prospect of relegation are Northern Ireland. Ian Baraclough’s men lost 1-0 to Austria on Sunday to leave them three points adrift at the bottom of Group B1. Two of their final three games are at home, though, so they could yet find the points to secure survival.

How are Europe’s big hitters doing?

Group A4 in the Nations League showing Spain top, Germany, Ukraine and Switzerland in second, third and fourth spot respectively

Germany won their first Nations League game, at the seventh time of asking, when they were 2-1 victors in Ukraine on Saturday. They still trail Spain at the top of Group A4, with the clash between the two in the final round of group fixtures looking likely to decide who qualifies for the finals tournament. Switzerland, who reached the finals tournament in the inaugural competition, are in danger of being relegated to League B.

Group A3 in the Nations League showing Portugal top with France, Croatia and Sweden in second, third and fourth respectively

A goalless draw between current Nations League champions Portugal and World Cup holders France on Sunday left the two locked on seven points at the top of Group A3. Portugal lead the group on goal difference and are the hosts when the two sides meet in the penultimate round of fixtures, so they hold the upper hand in the race to reach the finals.

Group A1 in the Nations League showing Italy top with Netherlands, Poland and Bosnia-Herzegovina in second, third and fourth respectively

One of the tightest groups is A1. Just one point separates Italy, who lead the group, and the Netherlands and Poland in second and third respectively. Frank de Boer’s wait for a first win as Netherlands boss continued as they drew 0-0 in Bosnia on Sunday, but neither Italy nor Poland could capitalise as they also played out a 0-0 draw.

Italy and Poland both have two home games remaining, so the Netherlands, who were beaten finalists last year, face an uphill challenge to reach the final four.

Just a reminder too that the best two Nations League group winners who do not reach the World Cup or play-offs through regular qualifying – which starts in March 2021 – will go into the 12-team World Cup European play-offs in March 2022 (with three qualifying for the tournament in Qatar).

What are the big matches to look out for this week?

All of the home nations are in action on Wednesday with England hosting Denmark, Scotland entertaining the Czech Republic, Wales travelling to Bulgaria and Northern Ireland going to Norway (all 19:45 BST).

In other games, the Republic of Ireland face a trip to Finland (17:00 BST), Germany host Switzerland and Spain travel to Ukraine on Tuesday (both 19:45 BST).

On Wednesday, there is a rematch of the 2018 World Cup final as Croatia play France, while Italy host the Netherlands and Portugal entertain Sweden (all 19:45 BST).

The final two group games take place on 14-15 and 17-18 November.

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