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UEFA Nations League B: Group by group preview

League B is the second-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 be promoted to League A.

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

Group 1: Ukraine, Scotland, Republic of Ireland & Armenia

UEFA Nations League B: Group by group preview

LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 18: Steve Clarke, Head Coach of Scotland acknowledges the fans following the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group D match between England and Scotland at Wembley Stadium on June 18, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

Group 1 is certainly interesting, featuring a British Isles derby as well as Ukraine returning to action for the first time since the Russian invasion.

In-spite of the ongoing conflict in their country, Ukraine are back on the international football scene this month with four, possibly five, fixtures.

The Blue and Yellow’s first game is in Scotland, but in a World Cup play-off semi-final, with the winners then facing Wales for a place in Qatar.

After those huge games are complete, attention will fully turn to the UEFA Nations League for all four teams in this section.

Oleksandr Petrakov’s side are, on paper, the big boys of Group B1 having been relegated form the top-tier two years ago.

Ukraine memorably beat Spain in Kyiv, before being cruelly thwarted by a Covid-19 outbreak, meaning their decisive trip to Switzerland was forfeited.

For now, they’ll be playing all of their ‘home’ matches in the Polish city of Łódź for obvious reasos.

As mentioned, Scotland and Ukraine will get to know each-other rather well across the next couple of months.

The Tartan Army come into this international window having won six consecutive competitive matches, last achieving this back in 1930.

To date, the Dark Blues have won six of ten UEFA Nations League fixtures and are unbeaten at home in the competition, winning four out of five.

Thus, Steve Clarke’s side will fancy their chances of promotion, even if attention is on World Cup qualification first and foremost.

Armenia meanwhile are competing at this level for the very first time having achieved back-to-back promotions, one of just two sides to have done this.

Joaquín Caparrós’ side lost just one of six games in this competition two years ago, ousting North Macedonia to first place in their group.

If the Mountaineers are to remain at this level, their best bet is to finish above Republic of Ireland, a side yet to fall in love with this competition.

The Boys in Green are still awaiting their first-ever Nations League victory, surviving with just three draws to their name in 2020.

However, things are looking up for Stephen Kenny’s team who are unbeaten in seven, despite the fact he didn’t win any of his first 11 in charge.

Prediction: 1st- Scotland. 2nd- Ukraine. 3rd- Republic of Ireland. 4th- Armenia.

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Group 2: Iceland, Israel & Albania

Alfred Finnbogason

MOSCOW, RUSSIA – JUNE 16: Alfreð Finnbogason of Iceland celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group D match between Argentina and Iceland at Spartak Stadium on June 16, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

First thing to point out is that Group B2 is one team light.

This is due to the fact all Russian national and club teams are suspended from all UEFA competitions indefinitely following the invasion of Ukraine.

In a pure footballing context, Russia have therefore forfeited all their matches, so have been relegated to League C with zero points.

Thus, without the threat of relegation, what an opportunity this provides for the three sides remaining in this section.

It’s fair to say that the UEFA Nations League hasn’t been kind to Iceland; they’ve lost all ten matches, conceding 30 goals and scoring just four.

However, this will be their first campaign competing below the top-flight, so that illusive first victory, or even points, should be within their grasp.

Although, Arnar Viðarsson’s team have only won two of their last 15 competitive internationals, with both wins coming against minnows Liechtenstein.

So, with Iceland a fading force, could Israel be in pole position to secure promotion?

The Blue and Whites have never qualified for a major tournament as a UEFA member, but are now closer than ever before.

They won five of ten Qatar 2022 qualifiers and have only lost three of their last nine outings in this competition.

Albania complete the trio; their first-ever UEFA Nations League match was a 1-0 victory over Israel in Elbasan back in September 2018.

Since then, Edoardo Reja has taken over as Head Coach and has turned the Eagles into a solid outfit.

Two years ago, they gained promotion to League B before winning six World Cup qualifiers, narrowly missing out on a play-off place.

With obvious front-runners Russia having been disqualified, this group could hardly be more even-balanced.

Prediction: 1st- Israel. 2nd- Iceland. 3rd- Albania.

Group 3: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Finland, Romania & Montenegro

UEFA Nations League B: Group by group preview

Teemu Pukki of Finland celebrates his goal during UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying match between Finland and Italy on September 8, 2019 at Ratina Stadium in Tampere, Finland. (Photo by Mike Kireev/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

In Group B3, by matchday four, Bosnia and Finland will have taken their tally to six competitive meetings in just three years.

The two were also drawn together in Euro 2020 and World Cup 2022 qualifying, with the Finns prevailing in two of these four match-ups.

In this group, it is these two who are likely to be battling it out for promotion to League A.

Bosnia & Herzegovina are the highest-seeded team in this section after they were relegated from the top-tier two years ago.

The Golden Lilies failed to win any of their League A matches in 2020 but, when they were at this level two years earlier, cruised to promotion.

However, Ivaylo Petev’s team are not remotely in good form having only won one of their last 15 competitive internationals, beating minnows Kazakhstan.

As a result Finland, who won 3-1 in Zenica as recently as November, might fancy their chances of claiming top spot.

Markku Kanerva’s men have won eight of 12 Nations League outings to date, narrowly pipped to promotion by Wales last time round.

On home soil, the Eagle-owls have only lost four of their last 18 competitive matches, these coming at the hands of France, Ukraine, Wales and Italy.

Meanwhile, Romania are aiming for another solid campaign at this level after accumulating eight points last time round.

The Tricolours have only lost two of 12 Nations League matches to date, but might just lack that extra quality needed to push for first place.

Last, but by no means least, Montenegro are competing at League B level for the first time after gaining promotion in 2020.

The Brave Falcons conceded just two goals as they topped their group two years ago, pipping Luxembourg by three points.

However, in a strong looking section, Miodrag Radulović’s side will be battling against an immediate return to the third-tier.

Prediction: 1st- Finland. 2nd- Bosnia & Herzegovina. 3rd- Romania. 4th- Montenegro.

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Group 4: Sweden, Norway, Serbia & Slovenia

UEFA Nations League B: Group by group preview

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN – SEPTEMBER 08: Sweden supporters wave flags during a UEFA Euro 2020 Qualification match between Sweden and Norway at Friends Arena on September 8, 2019 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Michael Campanella/Getty Images)

In terms of quality, the best has been very much saved for last with Group D4 very much the tastiest of the quartet at this level.

Arguably, the strongest team from each of the four pots have been drawn together, despite the fact there’s only a 1.56% chance of this occurring.

So, one capable team will be dropping down to League C and only one high-quality outfit will be moving up to the top-tier.

Sweden’s two Nations League campaigns have both resulted in them changing division, a trend they’ll hope continues, for one more year at least.

The Blågult were simply outclassed in League A last time round, winning just once and losing their other five fixtures.

However, in competitive games against teams currently in League B or below, Janne Andersson’s side have lost just five of their last 30.

Nordic neighbours Norway will also fancy their chances of promotion after being cruelly thrwiated two years ago.

Erling Braut Håland scored six times in their first four matches before an untimely Covid-19 outbreak derailed decisive matchdays five and six.

Nevertheless, having only lost two of 11 Nations League games they’ve actually played, expect Ståle Solbakken’s side to be a force.

Serbia complete a trio of teams who all, on paper, most defiantly have the quality to compete at League A level.

The Eagles cruised through League C in 2018, but found life in this tier more challenging two years later, only winning once and narrowly avoiding relegation.

Nevertheless, Dragan Stojković’s squad is jam-packed with talent, it’s just about unlocking all that potential.

Thus Slovenia, who’ve gained promotion to this level for the first time, will need to be on top form if they’re to avoid going straight back down.

Matjaž Kek’s men were unbeaten in League C in 2020, winning four of six matches, conceding just a solitary goal.

Having lost just eight of their last 29 competitive matches, Slovenia are a solid outfit, but were just incredibly unfortunate at the draw.

Prediction: 1st- Sweden. 2nd- Serbia. 3rd- Norway. 4th- Slovenia.

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Written by Wynonna Judd

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