UEFA Nations League A: Group by group preview

League A is the top-tier of the UEFA Nations League pyramid.

All four groups feature four teams who will play each-other home and away.

The four group winners will qualify for the UEFA Nations League Finals scheduled for June 2023.

The four last-placed teams will be relegated to League B.

Group 1: France, Denmark, Croatia & Austria

Group A1, fittingly enough, contains World Champions and reigning UEFA Nations League winners France.

Two years ago, les Blues topped their group unbeaten, winning five of six matches, qualifying for the Nations League Finals for the first time.

Once there, Didier Deschamps' came from 2-0 down to beat Belgium in the semis, before another comeback victory over Spain in the final.

Thus France, who've only lost one of 12 matches in this competition to date, will fancy their chances of adding more silverware in the near future.

The World Champions are, without doubt, overwhelming favourites to top this section, but don't underestimate their competitors.

As the French can testify, Croatia are capable of competing with the best; the two, of course, met in the World Cup Final less than four years ago.

However, the Blazers haven't enjoyed the Nations League too much, winning just two of ten matches, losing seven.

Both victories came at home, beating Spain in 2018 and Sweden two years later, and home form will be key once again for Zlatko Dalić's team.

Having said that, could Denmark be France's biggest challengers to top spot?

De Rød-Hvide reached the semi-finals of last summer's European Championships and have lost just six of their last 47 competitive fixtures.

Their only defeats in this competition came at the hands of Belgium, notably beating England at Wembley in October 2020.

Lastly, Austria are competing at League A level for the very first time having been promoted two years ago.

In League B, Das Team have won six of ten games, only losing twice, but Ralf Rangnick's new team may struggle at the pinacle of this competition.

Prediction: 1st- France. 2nd- Denmark. 3rd- Croatia. 4th- Austria. 

Group 2: Spain, Portugal, Switzerland & Czech Republic

The headline fixtures in Group A2 are, without doubt, the Iberian derbies between Spain and Portugal.

The two last met in a competitive fixture four years ago, playing out a thrilling 3-3 draw during the World Cup group stages.

Subsequently, both have enjoyed success in this competition, with Portugal crowned the inaugural winners back in June 2019.

Then, last October, Spain ended Italy's unbeaten streak in the semi-finals, before going down 2-1 to France in the final at San Siro.

Now, Luis Enrique's team are aiming to reach back-to-back finals, having only lost two of their last 26 competitive fixtures.

On home soil, la Roja have only been beaten once in 51 matches, dating back to 2003, that coming against England in this competition in 2018.

So, home games will be important to them once again, specifically the matchday one encounter with rivals Portugal in Seville.

The 2019 winners though come into this campaign buoyant having booked their place at the World Cup via the play-offs in March.

Fernando Santos' team have won eight of 12 UEFA Nations League fixtures to date, with their sole defeat coming against France.

Elsewhere, the other two teams in this group will, in all likelihood, be aiming to avoid the drop.

Switzerland actually qualified for the first-ever Nations League Finals but, two years ago, only survived at this level by the skin of their teeth.

Conversely, Murat Yakın's team did finish above European Champions Italy in World Cup qualifying, so certainly belong at this level.

Lastly, Czech Republic will get the chance to compete in League A for the very first time.

Jaroslav Šilhavý's team won six of ten second-tier matches, leapfrogging Scotland to promotion on the final matchday two years ago.

So, this time, the Czechs will enjoy some glamour fixtures, whilst looking to avoid an immediate return to League B.

Prediction: 1st- Portugal. 2nd- Spain. 3rd- Switzerland. 4th- Czech Republic. 

Group 3: Italy, Germany, England & Hungary

A3 is the most eye-catching of all the groups, with three former World Champions all involved.

Italy have enjoyed mixed fortunes in recent years, winning last summer's Euros before also finishing third at the UEFA Nations League Finals.

However, Gli Azzurri have now failed to qualify for back-to-back World Cups, suffering a shock 1-0 home defeat to North Macedonia in March.

Despite this, Roberto Mancini remains the man in charge, tasked with adding to Italy's six major honours so far.

The most successful men's European nation remain Germany who've lifted four World Cups, three Euros and the Confederations Cup in 2017.

However, in this competition, Die Mannschaft are yet to find their feet, winning just two of ten matches to date.

Germany's last Nations League outing resulted in a 6-0 hammering at the hands of Spain, their biggest defeat since 1931.

Nevertheless, under Hansi Flick, they've won all seven competitive games, scoring 31 goals and conceding just two.

Euro 2020 runners-up England complete this group's trio of heavyweights, still hoping to end their long wait for silverware.

The Three Lions reached the semi-finals of the last World Cup and the inaugural Nations League, before missing out on penalties last summer.

Gareth Southgate's team have become serious contenders for silverware in recent years, but are now just looking to take the hardest step.

England have only lost two of their last 44 competitive matches on home soil, both coming in this competition against Denmark and Spain.

Lastly, this'll be Hungary's first season in League A, with the draw ensuring they've walked into a baptism of fire.

Marco Rossi's men have actually enjoyed back-to-back promotions in this tournament, winning six of 12 games, losing just three.

Hungary held Germany to a draw during Euro 2020, before repeating the feat in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley as recently as October.

Thus, they're likely to be competitive, but will do incredibly well to avoid immediate relegation back to League B.

Prediction: 1st- England. 2nd- Germany. 3rd- Italy. 4th- Hungary. 

Group 4: Belgium, Netherlands, Poland & Wales

Group B4 features two neighbours, who've met 127 times to date, and always produce fierce contests.

For generations, Netherlands have been the dominant force, with their crowning moment coming in 1988, winning the European Championships.

More recently, Oranje have endured tough times, missing Euro 2016 and World Cup 2018, before reannouncing themselves in this competition.

In the inaugural edition, Holland saw off France, Germany and England but fell at the last hurdle, gallantly losing 1-0 to Portugal in the final.

Now under Louis van Gaal, with Ronald Koeman returning next year, Netherlands are looking to continue their strong Nations League record.

Belgium meantime have overtaken their rivals in the last decade, although they don't have a trophy to show for their efforts.

Roberto Martínez's men reached the semi-finals for World Cup 2018 and the Nations League last year, beaten by France both times.

So, the Red Devils' search for a first major final appearance since Euro 1980 remains ongoing.

While these two will, in all likelihood, be fighting it out for top spot, it'll be equally competitive in the battle to avoid relegation.

Wales are competing in the top-tier for the first time ever, winning seven of ten League B matches and gaining promotion in 2020.

The Dragons have lost just two of their last 25 competitive home games, and will need Cardiff to remain a fortress in this group.

Rob Page's team will feature in the very first match new Nations League season, namely a trip to Wrocław where Poland will be their hosts.

The Eagles have only won two of ten matches in this competition, but this'll be their third consecutive campaign in League A.

Czesław Michniewicz's team qualified for the World Cup in March, beating Sweden in a play-off, so will be looking to build on that momentum.

Prediction: 1st- Belgium. 2nd- Netherlands. 3rd- Poland. 4th- Wales. 

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Ben Gray

Ben Gray

Arsenal fan – follow them over land and sea (and Leicester); sofa Celtic supporter; a bit of a football '"encyclopedia".

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