UEFA Nations League: What to look out for on Thursday
The Netherlands and Denmark have a chance to qualify for the UEFA Nations League Finals first.
Denmark could reach the finals on Thursday
With two more matchdays to go before the finals in June 2023, the third season of the UEFA Nations League is well under way.
In advance of the Matchday 5 contests on Thursday, ClevPicks.com evaluates the current situation.
Thursday 22 September
Group A1 France vs Austria
Group A1 Croatia vs Denmark
Group A4 Belgium vs Wales
Group A4 Poland vs Netherlands
Group C1 Türkiye vs Luxembourg
Group C1 Lithuania vs Faroe Islands
Group C3 Kazakhstan vs Belarus (16:00)
Group C3 Slovakia vs Azerbaijan
Group D1 Latvia vs Moldova (18:00)
Group D1 Liechtenstein vs Andorra
All kick-off times 20:45 CET unless stated
Croatia aiming to overhaul Denmark
After losing to Austria 3-0 at home to start the season, Croatia held world champions France to a 1-1 draw before defeating Denmark and Les Bleus twice in a row. With a win on Thursday, the Vatreni would overtake Kasper Hjulmand's team to take first place in the division.
The sole loss of the group stage for the UEFA EURO 2020 semifinalists was a home loss to Croatia in June, which came after impressive victories in Vienna and Paris, respectively. Another victory here would guarantee their position in the finals after getting back to winning ways at home against Austria the previous time out.
Important fact: Pierre-Emile Hjbjerg of Denmark has recovered more balls (35) than any other player in the championship thus far.
France fight for survival against Austria
After earning just two points from their four group games in June, defending champions France are no longer eligible to advance to the finals. Kylian Mbappé's goal in injury time helped Didier Deschamps' squad salvage a 1-1 draw in Vienna in their previous encounter. Kylian Deschamps' team is failed to win at home after suffering defeats to Croatia and Denmark in Paris.
To maintain their tenuous chance of winning the group, Austria must win at the Stade de France and hope other results go their way. Ralf Rangnick's team's 3-0 victory in Osijek on Matchday 1 turned out to be something of a false dawn as they went on to lose both at home and away to Denmark and draw with France at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion.
Important fact: Prior to this season, France had only ever lost one match in the Nations League.
Belgium battling to stay in contention
Belgium bounced back from a crushing loss to the Netherlands on Matchday 1 with a commanding 6-1 victory against Poland at home. However, Roberto Martnez's team faces an uphill road to make it to a second straight Nations League finals because of Brennan Johnson's dramatic equalizer in Cardiff in June; they are three points behind a Dutch team they play in their last match.
The Dragons' lone point in the group thus far is a 1-1 tie, but Robert Page's team has performed admirably despite suffering close losses to Poland and the Oranje (home and away). Page will be anticipating a similarly realistic performance in Brussels.
Important fact: In Group A4, only Leandro Trossard and Michy Batshuayi have scored twice for the Red Devils.
Dutch on brink of second finals
If Belgium fails to defeat Wales and Louis van Gaal's squad wins in Warsaw, Belgium will not advance to the finals. Only two teams have scored more goals than the Netherlands in this season's competition, Turkey and Georgia, and they will be hopeful of maintaining their strong run against a porous Polish defense.
Poland, led 2-0 early in the second half of their 2-2 draw in Rotterdam earlier in the competition, will draw encouragement from that performance. And because Robert Lewandowski has been performing well for his team, the hosts will be confident that they can earn yet another victory.
Important fact: Memphis Depay missed a last-second penalty in the 2-2 tie with Poland, but has scored three goals in as many Nations League games in 2022.
Elsewhere on Thursday
In Group C1, Türkiye will be promoted to League B if they avoid defeat at home to Luxembourg while Lithuania must win against the Faroe Islands to avoid entering the relegation play-outs.
Kazakhstan will be promoted to League B if they beat Belarus in Group C3.
Latvia, who have a 100% record, will be promoted to League C if they avoid defeat at home to Moldova.
Matchdays 5 & 6: 22–27 September 2022
Finals draw: tbc
Semi-finals: 14 & 15 June 2023
Final & third-place match: 18 June 2023
Play-outs: 21–23 & 24–26 March 2024
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