English football fans will find themselves in a very unusual position this June, as England are currently the favourites to win the very first UEFA Nations League football tournament. After a string of impressive performances in the group stages, Gareth Southgate’s team find themselves up against the Netherlands in the semi-final on 6 June. If they can beat the Dutch team, then they will face either Portugal or Switzerland in the Nations League final on 9 June.
After their surprisingly good performance in the 2018 World Cup, England have shown no shortage of skill and enthusiasm on the pitch. From their impressively goal tallies in their recent Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro, to their stunning wins over Croatia and Spain the in Nations League group stages, Gareth Southgate’s side are in with their best chance of getting some silverware in years.
Will Harry Kane play in the UEFA Nations League finals?
Good news for England fans, as it has just been announced that Harry Kane will be part of the squad for the Nations League matches. As the Tottenham star picked up the Golden Boot award from his six goals in the 2018 World Cup, it’s clear that his input will be critical to England’s success.
Kane hasn’t actually played a full match since early April, but it seems that his ankle injury has finally been overcome. The striker is expected to return to competitive football with a thrilling Champions League final match against Liverpool this weekend.
Who else is in the England Nations League squad?
It looks like Kane’s Tottenham team-mates Harry Winks and Kieran Trippier won’t be joining him in the Nations League finals, as they have been left out of the squad along with the Southampton players James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond.
Gareth Southgate has opted to include in-form players like Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kyle Walker in the right back position ahead of Trippier. Other familiar faces in the England defence are Ben Chilwell, Joe Gomez, Michael Keane, Danny Rose, John Stones and Harry Maguire. In midfield, we can expect to see Tottenham stars like Dele Alli and Eric Dier, along with Jordan Henderson, Jesse Lingard, Ross Barkley, Fabian Delph and Declan Rice.
Raheem Sterling will hope to continue his strong goal-scoring run alongside Kane in the attack. Plus expect to see fierce competition from the likes of Marcus Rashford, Callum Wilson and the talented youngster Jadon Sancho to get a spot up-front for England this June.
Expect spirited opposition from the Netherlands in the Nations League semi-final
Dutch football had been in the doldrums recently, but it looks like the Netherlands team are in great form and we can expect them to give England a few headaches in the Nations League semi-final. The match takes place on Thursday 6 June at the Estadio D. Afonso Henriques stadium in Guimaraes, Portugal.
Dutch football fans will be hoping for great things from their reinvigorated squad after their embarrassing absence from the 2018 World Cup. The Netherlands booked their trip to the Nations League semi-finals thanks to some seriously impressive results in the group stages. These included a 3-0 home win against Germany, and a 2-0 home victory over the current World Cup champions, France.
Liverpool fans will know all about talented Dutch stars like Virgil van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum, and Ajax’s Matthijs de Ligt will also be expected to play a key role in the Dutch side. However, it’s the youngster Frenkie de Jong who could cause the biggest problems for England. The 22-year old has been snapped up by Barcelona for €75 million and his playmaking skills will be pivotal for the Netherlands.
Portugal expected to make a UEFA Nations League final appearance
Whilst Portugal underwhelmed at the 2018 World Cup, this team have always been capable of proving the doubters wrong. Any team with Cristiano Ronaldo in their ranks is worth keeping an eye on, and so we could easily see Portugal repeating their Euro 2016 winning performance.
Ronaldo managed to live up to the hype this season at Juventus, and he looks to be over his hamstring injury to cause Switzerland more than a few issues in their semi-final match on 5 June.
Whilst the focus will undoubtedly be on Cristiano Ronaldo, there’s more to this team than just the legendary striker. In particular, it’s the 19-year old Joao Felix who could capture the headlines in the Nations League finals. The Benfica striker scored a hat-trick against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League semi-finals, and he’s been linked with a £100 million move to both Manchester City and Manchester United.
Despite the immense talent of the Portugal team, they haven’t had a great run of form recently. Middling results in the Euro 2020 qualifiers with draws against the likes of Serbia and the Ukraine shows that all is not well in the Portugal camp. However, they should be expected to get past Switzerland in the semi-finals, and we all know that anything can happen whenever Cristiano Ronaldo takes the pitch.
Could Switzerland be the dark horses of the 2019 Nations League?
Switzerland might not be the favourites to win the UEFA Nations League, but this side could easily cause a few issues for any opponent. Once again, Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri and Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka will be the key players to watch, and Switzerland have consistently proven to be a difficult side to beat.
Vladimir Petkovic’s team looked strong at the 2018 World Cup, and there’s a host of talented youngsters like Ruben Vargas, Eray Comert and Noah Okafar who will be ready to make a big splash this June.
Anyone who saw Switzerland put five past Belgium in their Nations League group matches will know that this is a team who can provide an upset. However, their recent 3-3 draw with Denmark in the Euro 2020 qualifiers shows that Switzerland can suffer from nerves and throw away what should be an easy win.
As a result, Switzerland are undoubtedly the team who could be trickiest to predict in the upcoming Nations League finals. But if England beat the Netherlands, they will be hoping to face Switzerland in the final and finally get their hands on some silverware.