It’s inclusion in the international calendar may have drawn a sense of bewilderment for many, others were flatly against it, but after an exciting initial qualifying campaign in the league stage, there is no doubt that the Nations League has been a real success for UEFA.

The aim of the new competition was to give teams more games against opponents commensurate with their level of ability and also to do away with the number of ‘meaningless friendly games’ that international teams played over the course of a year. On both those key aims, the Nations League has certainly delivered.

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We’ve already seen some big shocks with the likes of Germany, Croatia and Poland relegated from their respective League’s into the one below for the next tournament (which takes place after the World Cup in 2022). We’ve also seen some real shocks with Switzerland thumping Belgium 5-2 to reach the semifinals, while England overcame Spain and Croatia in their final two group games to earn top spot in their group too.

This week sees the culmination of the first tournament for the teams in League A competing in the playoff section of the tournament. Portugal, who are acting as hosts for the semifinals and final, will face Switzerland in the first semifinal on Wednesday night, before England are in action against an improving Netherlands side, managed by Ronald Koeman, on Thursday evening. Both games get underway at 7.45pm.

So what are England’s chances of landing their first major international silverware at senior level since the 1966 World Cup victory? We take a look England’s chances and their possible opponents to give you our view.

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So how do we rate England’s chance of success? Let’s take a closer look at Gareth Southgate’s squad, probable first choice team and the likely opponents the Three Lions will face if they are to win the trophy.

Can England win the Nations League?

There’s no doubt after excellent performances by younger England teams, and a strong showing at the 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia, where they reached the semifinals, Gareth Southgate’s England will feel more than ever that they have a chance to end their long wait for a senior level trophy.

After losing their opener to Spain, they then drew in Croatia to sit bottom of the group after two games, but then a fine win in Spain, followed by another at home to Croatia, ensured that England leapfrogged both sides to finish top of the group by a point.

Gareth Southgate had seven of his squad arrive late to the party following the Champions League final last weekend, but he has picked a young and increasingly familiar squad for their games this summer.

England Squad

  • Goalkeepers – Jordan Pickford (Everton), Jack Butland (Stoke City), Tom Heaton (Burnley)
  • Defenders – Kyle Walker (Man City), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Ben Chilwell (Leicester), John Stones (Man City), Harry Maguire (Leicester), Michael Keane (Everton), Joe Gomez (Liverpool)
  • Midfielders – Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jesse Lingard (Man Utd), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Man City), Declan Rice (West Ham), Fabian Delph (Man City), Ross Barkley (Chelsea), Dele Alli (Tottenham)
  • Forwards – Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Man Utd), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Callum Wilson (Bournemouth)

Probable Team

Gareth Southgate has played a number of formations as England manager, but more recently adopted a 4-3-3- formation similar to what many teams play at the top level. If he opts for that formation, his likely first choice team will be:

England (4-3-3) – Pickford, Walker, Chilwell, Maguire, Stones, Henderson, Dier, Alli, Sterling, Rashford, Kane.

England’s Opponents

Semifinal – v Netherlands

England’s semifinal takes place on Thursday night in Guimares and they will face a Netherlands side that they beat 1-0 in Holland the last time that the teams played. Since that game in 2018, the Dutch have improved significantly and they have a number of very talented youngsters, such as Ajax trio Mattijs de Ligt, Frenkie De Jong and Donny van de Beek coming through, allied to the talent of experienced stars such as Virgil van Dijk, Gini Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay.

The Dutch came through a group featuring World Cup winners France and Germany, beating both at home en-route to the last four, though it was their last gasp draw in Germany, secured with two late goals to earn a 2-2 draw, that saw them pip the French to top spot in the group.

Given the quality in their team, the Dutch will certainly provide a stern test for England, but I feel that Gareth Southgate’s men have the quality to earn the win. Harry Kane’s fitness is a concern but the form Raheem Sterling is in at the moment means he will be the man the Dutch really fear.

Back England to win at 13/8 with bet365 Sport.

Final/3rd Place Game – v Portugal or Switzerland

England will be in action once again at the weekend, although whether it is in the final, or the third-place game depends on whether they are victorious against the Dutch on Thursday night. Their opponents will either be Portugal or Switzerland who contest the other semifinal this evening (Wednesday 5th June).

The Swiss are an interesting team, who eliminated Belgium from the tournament thanks to a sensational 5-2 home win, where they came from being 2-0 down after just 15 minutes to secure a staggering win against the top rated side in Europe at the moment. That win, plus a double over Iceland being enough to send the Swiss to Portugal.

The Portuguese came through their group with Poland and Italy despite not having Cristiano Ronaldo available for any of their qualifiers, but their Talismanic striker is back in the squad for this tournament, which is especially useful given that AC Milan striker Andre Silva misses out through injury.

Many eyes will be on the talented youngsters Portugal have available with the £100m rated Joao Felix of Benfica also in the squad, as well as Wolves duo Ruben Neves and Diego Jota. Given home advantage, I strongly fancy Portugal to reach the final from their semifinal clash.

Can England beat Portugal on Portuguese soil? It is a big ask and a well-matched game that could require extra time and penalties to decide the winner. Portugal did choke on home soil in the final of the 2004 European Championships, when losing to Greece, could lightning strike twice and see England (or the Netherlands) pip them to glory this time too?

My gut feeling is that Portugal will just about shade the win here leaving England still waiting for that first major trophy since 1966. You can back Portugal to win the tournament outright at 13/8 before tonight’s game with Switzerland and you may want to back at that price now as I feel that after the game, their odds will be greatly shortened.