The first international break of the season is upon us after an intense, quick-paced, club football action in the last two months. For the European teams, the competition continues, however tempered, in the Nations League. For the other countries from the different continents, friendlies will do just fine.
In the end, for whatever it’s worth, the aim for most countries who have qualified is to fine-tune preparations ahead of the World Cup in November.
The previous round of matches in the Nations League in June had goals. Indeed, it was exciting. Germany’s 5-2 win against Italy readily comes to mind. And yet, the real upset was at the Molineux, where Hungary spanked the Three Lions 4-0 with John Stones sent off late in the game.
Some cracking fixtures will go down this week, especially from League A. As such, some teams look sure to deliver over 1.5 results for punters.
The Oranje sit top of Group 4, three points ahead of Belgium. And with their sights set on a semi-final qualification, they will be desperate to get past the Poland hurdle.
In truth, given how poorly Czeslaw Michniewicz’s men have performed this season, the Dutch side will be very confident. The Biało-czerwoni have managed just four points from four matches and occupy the third position.
And yet, the reverse fixture, three months ago, saw Louis Van Gaal’s side come from two goals down to earn a point. Memphis Depay could have made it more but lost a penalty in the dying minutes.
Van Gaal’s blend of experience and youth; athleticism and maturity has made them mostly unplayable this season. Depay, Virgil Van Dijk, Frenkie de Jong and Denzel Dumfries have been impressive this season. The manager’s 3-5-2 system ensures they can expand the pitch as much as possible while being able to curtail counter-attacks.
Of course, the headache for the Netherlands will be taming Robert Lewandowski who has settled easily at Barcelona.
The fixture has the makings of a goal fest. An over 1.5 result seems the surest to come through.
Les Blues have not been the same since their abysmal performance at the Euros last year. Even though they defeated Spain to win the last edition of the Nations League, the cracks were apparent.
Now, they sit bottom of Group 1 without a win and just two points from four matches. They take on an Austrian side who are struggling for form similarly. A loss would officially relegate them from Group A. The opposite fixture ended 1-1 in Austria.
Didier Deschamps will be keen to get his side back on track as the World Cup looms. Indeed, there is a clamour for his sack and the appointment of Zinedine Zidane.
The former French player will be counting on his star-studded attack led by Kylian Mbappe. Karim Benzema is still out. Ngolo Kante, Paul Pogba, Presnel Kimpembe and Lucas Hernandez are injured too. Although, Ousmane Dembele has been in sensational form and could prove the difference from the flanks.
Ralf Ragnick’s men will not be in Qatar. The objective will be solely to avoid relegation and put up a resilient performance against the defending Champions. David Alaba will be important in providing leadership and inspiration.
Everything points to a high-scoring encounter, with an over 1.5 margin almost sure to come through.
Belgium has been the favourite to win the Nations League since its inception. And yet, somehow, it has eluded them. They take on Wales tomorrow night, aiming for a win to close the gap in the hope of a favourable result between the Netherlands and Poland.
Wales, in contrast, will be desperate to avoid relegation after mediocre performances in previous matches. Although, they will also look to get things in place in preparation for the World Cup.
Belgium will be desperate to do the business at home after Brennan Johnson scored late to force a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture.
Roberto Martinez will have a decent complement of players to call on for this encounter after banking on a weakened side in the previous Gameweek. Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard will hope to exert themselves on the opponent. Mitchy Batshuayi will expect to get the nod with Romelu Lukaku injured.
The Red Devils will hope to open the scoring as early as possible to avoid a nervy encounter. They may yet need to be at their clinical best against Rob Page’s side who are no slouches on their day.
Gareth Bale is still the X-factor for the Dragons. If the former Real Madrid player is given time and space, he could prove influential.
With both sides familiar with each other, it is fair to expect a competitive affair.
Group 1 leaders, Denmark face an enormous task in qualifying for the semi-finals when they face a creative Croatia team with the same objective. With just two points separating both teams, this is set up for an end-to-end encounter.
The hosts have continued from where they stopped at last year’s Euros where they reached the semi-finals. And now, a win against Zlatko Dalic’s men on Thursday, would guarantee a place in the last four of the Nations League.
Christian Eriksen has been in fine form since signing for Manchester United. His quality in picking the right passes, at the right time, would be pivotal for Kasper Hjulmand’s side.
Going against a midfield led by Luka Modric, Denmark will need to be resilient, blocking the spaces and closing down the Madrid man. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg will have his work cut out in this regard.
Kasper Dolberg will have to be content with feeding on scraps in attack while being required to take his chances when they come.
The enormity of Thursday’s match means that there will be goals. Betting on over 1.5 goals in this fixture looks sure to guarantee great rewards.