2020-21 UEFA Nations League Group A2: England, Belgium, Denmark, and Iceland to jostle for group supremacy
- Group A2 of the 2020-21 UEFA Nations League could provide us with some exciting matches.
The UEFA Nations League, introduced in 2018-19 to add competitive fervor to friendlies between UEFA nations, is into its second edition in 2020-21.
The teams, ranked according to their UEFA coefficient, are clubbed into 4 different leagues - League A (16 teams), League B (16 teams), League C (16 teams) and League D (7 teams). The four winners of the mini-leagues (A1, A2, A3, and A4) in League A, with each mini-league consisting of 4 teams apiece, would contest a knockout semifinal and final in June 2021 to be crowned the Nations League winners.
In the 3 other leagues (B, C, and D), there is promotion and relegation to play for. Each of the 3 league winners from these 3 leagues gains promotion to the higher league, while the two bottom teams in Leagues A and B are relegated.
On that note, let us have a look at Group A2 of the 2020-21 UEFA Nations League, where former World champions England lock horns with 1992 Euro winners Denmark, Belgium, and Iceland.
After topping a group containing former world and Euro champions Spain and Croatia, England lost to Netherlands in the inaugural UEFA Nations League semifinals in 2018-19 before beating Switzerland in a penalty shootout to take third place.
In a revamped 2020-21 edition of the competition, England find themselves in a four-team group containing 1992 Euro winners Denmark, Belgium, and Iceland. All three teams excluding Iceland qualified for Euro 2020 from their respective qualifying groups. Iceland will face Romania in the playoff semi-finals, with the winner of that match playing the winner of the match between Bulgaria and Hungaria to qualify for the quadrennial tournament.
Since playing an entertaining 4-4 draw with Belgium at the 1954 FIFA World Cup in their first competitive fixture, England have since won one of their next 4 such fixtures against the Reds, which includes two losses at the 2018 FIFA World Cup (group-stage and third-place play-off).
England have won 5 of their 8 competitive meetings with Denmark, the 1966 FIFA World Cup winners winning the pair's last competitive meeting 3-0 at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
In their only competitive clash with Iceland, England crashed to a 1-2 defeat to the Nordic nation in the Round of 16 at Euro 2016.
2018 FIFA World Cup semi-finalist Belgium have beaten England in the pair's last two competitive meetings in the 2018 edition of the quadrennial tournament. The Reds beat England by a solitary goal in a group-stage game in Kaliningrad and won 2-0 against the same opposition in the third-place play-off in St. Petersburg.
Belgium have 3 wins and 2 defeats from their 5 competitive meetings with Denmark, losing 1-3 home and away in the Euro 1996 qualifiers in the pair's last competitive clashes.
The Reds have a perfect 10-0 record against Iceland in competitive fixtures, which includes victories in the 1958 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, 1974 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, 1976 Euro qualifiers, 1978 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, and a pair of wins in the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League where the two teams were in the same group.
1992 Euro winners Denmark's sole win over England in 8 competitive fixtures arrived in the 1984 Euro qualifiers where the Danes prevailed by a solitary goal. In the pair's last competitive meeting, Denmark fell to a 0-3 defeat against the Three Lions at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
The Nordic nation has emerged victorious in both of their last two competitive meetings with Belgium, winning 3-1 home and away in the 1996 Euro qualifiers.
Against their fellow Nordic neigbour Iceland, Denmark have a perfect 6-0 record which includes a pair of victories apiece in the 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, 2008 Euro qualifiers, and 2012 Euro qualifiers. Iceland have scored just once in these 6 games.
Iceland are the clear underdogs in this group, having lost all but one of their 17 cumulative competitive clashes against their fellow group A2 members.
The tiny Nordic nation has lost all 10 of their competitive clashes with Belgium and all 6 of their competitive meetings with Denmark while they stunned England 2-1 in the Euro 2016 second round in their only competitive outing against the Three Lions.
England and Belgium are the teams to beat in this section, with one of the duo expected to qualify for the 2020-21 Nations League semi-finals in June' 21. On current form, Belgium, who won all their 10 games in the Euro 2020 qualifiers, are the marginal favourites to progress from this group.
However, there is the Euro 2020 quadrennial championship to play for before group A2 action begins in September later this year.
You may also like: UEFA Nations League 2020-21 Group A4 Preview: Spain and Germany renew acquaintances.
Published 06 Mar 2020, 13:44 IST