England and Southgate May Pay a Price for Success
Let’s face it: UEFA’s newest competition – the Nations League – hasn’t really caught the imagination of fans in the way it was hoped. The tournament, which acts as a hybrid qualification route for the 2020 European Championships and a competition in its own right, is arguably too complicated with games played too far apart (Sept, Nov, June) to really get fans’ juices going.
And yet, five weeks from now England’s youthful side, who have been reinvigorated under Gareth Southgate, will take part in the semi-finals of the inaugural tournament. England’s performance in the mini group stages has set up an intriguing finals series to take place in Portugal, with Southgate’s men playing the Netherlands in one semi-final on 5thJune and Switzerland taking on the hosts in the other. The final will be held on the 9thJune in Porto.
People might be surprised to know that England are the favourites for the competition. They have been given odds of 7/4 to win the tournament by Coral, with hosts Portugal second favourites at 2/1, and Netherlands and Switzerland at 3/1 and 11/2 respectively. While the coverage won’t be as wide-ranging as a World Cup, but you can watch it on Sky Sports. Nor will bookmakers’ promotions be as ubiquitous as with the big tournaments, but you can still use a Coral free bets for the tournament or individual matches.
Should England be favourites?
One could question, however, if England really do deserve to be regarded as favourites for the tournament. Now, this assertion has nothing to do with the old doom and gloom punditry of England’s recent past; indeed, it’s quite the opposite. England’s players have been tearing it up for club and country over the past year, but they might soon have to pay a price for that success in terms of fatigue.
As all England fans are aware, England went deep into the 2018 World Cup, their tournament stretching out to the third-place playoff in mid-July. Switzerland and Portugal were eliminated from the competition almost two weeks earlier. The Dutch didn’t qualify for the finals at all. That gave plenty of headaches to Premier League managers wanting to get their players in shape for the start of the new season. Extended breaks were given to some players, but not all of England’s heroes.
As you might expect, the Premier League’s top teams provide a lot of players for the England squad. The ‘Big 6’ teams contribute around 65% of England call-ups in the last year, and all six of those teams made it to the quarter-finals or better in European club competition. At the time of writing, Chelsea, Arsenal (Europa League) and Spurs and Liverpool (Champions League) are still involved Europe. That’s a long season for many England players.
Ajax have also progressed in Europe
England are 6/5 with Bet365 to win the semi-final against Holland (23/10), with the draw at 9/4. Some might point out that Ajax are also in the Champions League semi-finals, so it’s right to have the England as favourites. However, it should be noted that only four Ajax players were in the latest Dutch squad, and only about a third of the squad in total was in the late stages of European competition this season. Moreover, the Dutch squad had the summer off while England were slogging it out in Russia.
To make it tougher still for England, it should be remarked that the Dutch, Portuguese and Swiss leagues have fewer games than the Premier League season. Yes, the Premier League hosts plenty of players from those nations, but the majority of players will still ply their trade in their home country.
None of this is meant to pour cold water on England’s chances. It should be pointed out that Gareth Southgate has lots of options for a youthful squad, but he must also act shrewdly, perhaps even dropping some of those players who might play in the Europa League or Champions League Final England’s young team have played a lot. Southgate must also keep in mind that there are bigger prizes on offer than the Nations League.