It’s safe to say that the UEFA Nations League isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The ongoing competition is the third installment of European football’s newest international competition. And while many football fans still view the tournament as glorified friendlies, you’d be hard pressed to find a supporter that doesn’t prefer actually playing for something, rather than the old-fashioned friendlies, where eleven substitutes were made at halftime, killing the tempo of matches all over the continent. France are the current reigning champions, defeating Spain in the San Siro last October to lift the trophy for the first time. Les Bleus won’t be retaining the trophy, however, and oddschecker, which compares odds and provides free offers on European football have made their neighbours, the Netherlands, the favourites for glory.
The most recent edition of the competition has provided plenty of shockers. Last time out, Hungary thumped England 4-0 away from home in one of the most surprising results in recent years. The Hungarians were up to their old tricks once again in match week five, away at Germany. Didier Deschamps’ reigning champions have also been disappointing in their attempts to become the first team to retain the trophy, losing at home to Denmark and Croatia, meaning that they cannot qualify for the finals.
The Three Lions’ UEFA Nations League campaign has been nothing short of a disaster. They have suffered humiliating defeats home and away to Hungary and are the only nation other than San Marino to not score a goal other than a penalty. Gareth Southgate’s side were one of the favourites for success in Qatar this winter and its easy to see why following their run to the final four in Russia four years ago and then to the final of the European Championships last summer. But on recent form, they’ll be lucky to get out of their group.
Their embarrassment was confirmed in match five as they slumped to a 1-0 defeat away at a weakened Italy. Giacomo Raspadori’s second-half strike was enough to secure victory for the hosts and in turn, confirmed a humbling relegation to League B. Despite the wealth of talent in the English ranks - such as the likes of Harry Kane, Phil Foden, and Jude Bellingham - Southgate just can’t seem to get the best out of his superstars. Whether he can stem the tide before their World Cup campaign gets underway against Iran remains to be seen, but the future most definitely looks ominous for the England manager.
The rise of Hungary has been one of the biggest talking points of this entire Nations League campaign, and the recent round of fixtures were no different. As mentioned previously, Marco Rossi’s side had already done the double over England - scoring five unanswered goals nonetheless. They also managed to gain a hard-earned point against Germany in Budapest earlier in the competition, but their shining moment would come in the reverse fixture.
They travelled to Leipzig knowing that a positive result would leave them in pole position in qualifying for the final four later in the year, although the bookmakers didn’t give them much of a chance. The bookies made them 9/1 underdogs on the road, but their positive performance away from home against the Germans during the rescheduled Euro 2020 tournament will have given them hope. And they put that hope to good use.
Ádám Szalai - who scored during that 2-2 draw in Munich last summer - gave the visitors an early lead, and it was a lead they wouldn’t give up. Some staunch defending under pressure in the second half ensured that the Hungarians headed southeast with all three points, and with another illustrious scalp claimed.