UEFA Nations League: England reach finals; Belgium capitulate
A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in the UEFA Nations League…
England 2-1 Croatia
The best rivalries in sports are the ones born out of contentious, high-stakes meetings on the field of play and the inevitable spill-over of words thereafter. Along those very lines, something of a rivalry is brewing between England and Croatia, and it’s all happened within a six-month period in 2018.
There was, of course, the two nations’ 2018 World Cup semifinal meeting in July, followed by the first of two rematches in the Nations League last month, and finally Sunday’s League A Group 4 finale. In between all of those on-field meetings, though, came the stoking of fires in the form of a verbal jab here and there.
Sunday’s clash at Wembley Stadium, which saw the Croats go ahead not long before the hour mark and appear destined for victory and the top spot in the group, only to watch their lead slip away in a late collapse, will only have added to the budding disdain between the two squads.
Andrej Kramaric put the visitors ahead int he 57th minute, but Jesse Lingard (78th) and Harry Kane (85th) brought the Three Lions back for a dramatic victory and pushed Gareth Southgate’s to a first-place finish in the group. As such, England (7 points) joined Portugal in the final-four knockout stage.
Nearly as sweet for England, the result sends Croatia (4 points) bottom of the group, and they’ll be relegated to League B next time around.
Switzerland 5-2 Belgium
From 2-0 up, to an embarrassing 5-2 defeat, Sunday was certainly a day to forget — and an opportunity missed — for Belgium. A draw over victory against Switzerland would have seen the Red Devils finish top of League A Group 2, and they were in poll position for precisely that result after just 17 minutes, when they led 2-0 courtesy of Thorgan Hazard’s early brace.
From that point forward, not a single thing went right for Roberto Martinez’s side as the home side score five unanswered goals from that point forward. It was 2-2 fewer than 15 minutes later — Ricardo Rodriguez and Haris Seferovic (penalty kick made it so — and Seferovic made it 3-2 just before halftime. There would be no galvanizing of the troops after the intermission, as Nico Elvedi scored his first international goal to make it 4-2 in the 62nd minute. Seferovic completed his hat trick, and the 5-2 scoreline, in the 84th.
In the end, it’s the Swiss who’ll join England and Portugal in the League A finals, by virtue of the second tiebreaker — goal differential in head-to-head matchups.
Elsewhere in UEFA Nations League
League B Group 3
Northern Ireland 1-2 Austria
League C Group 2
Hungary 2-0 Finland
Greece 0-1 Estonia
League D Group 2
San Marino 0-2 Belarus
Moldova 1-1 Luxembourg
Monday’s UEFA Nations League schedule
League A Group 1
Germany vs. Netherlands — 2:45 p.m. ET
League B Group 1
Czech Republic vs. Slovakia — 2:45 p.m. ET
League B Group 4
Denmark vs. Ireland — 2:45 p.m. ET
League C Group 3
Cyprus vs. Norway — 2:45 p.m. ET
Bulgaria vs. Slovakia — 2:45 p.m. ET
League D Group 1
Georgia vs. Kazakhstan — 12 p.m. ET
Andorra vs. Latvia — 12 p.m. ET
League D Group 4
Macedonia vs. Gibraltar — 2:45 p.m. ET
Liechtenstein vs. Armenia — 2:45 p.m. ET