On Thursday night, Croatia defeated Spain 3-2 to blow Group A4 of the Nations League wide open. The victory means that Spain are still top of the group on six points, but have played all their games. Meanwhile, England and Croatia are on both on four points. The pair meets on Sunday afternoon at Wembley in a game that will decide the group.
Sunday’s game will decide the group
The Nations League was created by UEFA to make international games more competitive during the breaks from big international tournaments. The notion of promotion and relegation in the groups does make the competition far more interesting.
The group is that well balanced that if either team wins Sunday’s game they could finish top of the group, the loser would then suffer relegation to the Nations League B groups.
As the stands Croatia are bottom of the group, so even if they gain a draw at Wembley, then they will suffer demotion to the next level. In truth, all three teams are far too good to be playing in Group B, but that’s the reality of the situation. Only Spain are safe from the prospect of relegation, despite their defeat on Thursday night.
Recent history on Croatia’s side
England will head into Sunday’s clash as favourites for the victory. The Three Lions recorded a comfortable 3-0 friendly win over the USA on Thursday night at Wembley.
Defeat their tag as favourites and Croatia’s recent patchy form in the international game, recent history favours the visitors. The last meeting between these two teams ended goalless. However, the previous meeting of the two teams saw Croatia end England’s hopes of winning the World Cup, by beating Gareth Southgate’s team 2-1 in extra-time of the semi-finals in Russia.
England had gone into that clash as slight favourites too with many. There certainly will not be any complacency from Southgate’s team this time around, as they seek to avoid the indignity of relegation in the first ever Nations League campaign.
The Nations League has made international games more competitive
While the Nations League may not have been a universally applauded idea, the competition has made international games during the season slightly more competitive. If it were not for the Nations League, international teams would just be playing meaningless friendlies all year round. However, the newly formed competition has also made these mid-season friendlies slightly more interesting to fans.
A much-changed England side produced a decent display against the USA. However, Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate was not happy with the display and will expect better from his team on Sunday afternoon.
A number of first-team players are likely to return for the game with Croatia, including the likes of John Stones, Kyle Walker, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling. Croatia fielded a strong team against Spain and are likely to do so again at Wembley, as they seek to avoid the drop into Nations League B.
Overall, the Nations League may just turn out to be one of UEFA’s better ideas in recent years. Friendly games are and will always be dull to fans, but at least there is a slight competitive edge to Nations League games and the competition may well have legs.
Who will win Sunday’s clash between England and Croatia?