Nations League Opener between England and Spain is a Tasty Offering
It was only a couple of months ago that the nation was gripped by World Cup fever. Scroll forward a few weeks and the latest international break is met with a sinking of shoulders for stopping the Premier League season in its tracks.
But this international break is hugely intriguing as it offers England manager Gareth Southgate the chance to get back on the horse following the disappointing end to the World Cup.
Football didn’t come home after all, as the Three Lions were exposed in the semi-finals by Croatia and a similar scenario played out in the third-placed play-off with Belgium.
Reality was injected back into the psyche and now Southgate must plot a way back towards the top, with the next target being qualification for the 2020 European Championship.
With the 2020 Euros being spread across the continent, there will be no automatic qualification spot for the hosts – but with the semi-finals and final being played at Wembley, the incentive is there for the Three Lions to make a bold showing.
While qualifying takes place next year, the new UEFA Nations League hands sides the chance to secure a favourable seeding in the draw.
The Nations League kicks off this week and the opening game hands Southgate an immediate test of his side’s mettle as they take on Spain at Wembley.
The 2018 World Cup was a relative success for England, but for Spain it was the complete opposite. Entering the summer spectacular as favourites, they never recovered from the sacking of manager Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the tournament and crashed out at the round of 16 stage to host nation Russia.
There is a concern that teams may not give everything to the Nations League, given that the higher-ranked nations are sure to be seeded for the European Championship qualifying draw irrespective of their performance.
That may turn out to be the case with both England and Spain, but for the latter their new coach Luis Enrique will be eager to hit the ground running.
It is a new era for Spain, with Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Gerard Pique all retiring following the World Cup and Enrique taking the controversial decision to leave out Barcelona full back Jordi Alba and Atletico midfielder Koke.
Enrique has also seen Koke’s Atletico team-mate Diego Costa rule himself out for “personal reasons” but despite the absences La Furia Roja have huge talent in their ranks.
The spine of the team consists of David De Gea, Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets, Thiago Alcantara, Isco and Marco Asensio. With England shorn of the talents of Raheem Sterling, and captain Harry Kane nursing a heavy cold, Spain make decent appeal at 188BET’s price of 2.79.
For those who are still riding the World Cup wave, England can be backed at 2.75 – with the draw at 3.05.
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