How the home nations fared in mixed Nations League campaign
The Nations League has produced mixed results for the home nations and the Republic of Ireland.
England and Wales were both relegated from League A while Scotland passed them on the way up, winning promotion from the second tier.
Republic of Ireland, Scotland’s Group B1 rivals, avoided defeat in their last match to retain their second-tier status, while Northern Ireland were spared relegation from Group C2 despite defeat in Greece.
Here, the PA news agency looks at how the teams fared.
Played 6, Won 0, Drawn 3, Lost 3, Points 3
Less than a year after reaching the Euro 2020 final, England saw their campaign get off to the worst possible start in June with a 1-0 defeat in Hungary. Things did not get any better over the course of the next three matches, in the space of eight days, which ended in the ignominious 4-0 defeat at home to Hungary. Defeat to Italy and relegation from the top tier therefore were not unexpected. Gareth Southgate’s side scored just four goals in this season’s Nations League – two of which were penalties – while three of those came in the error-ridden 3-3 draw against Germany and no side in League A scored fewer.
P 6, W 0, D 1, L 5, Pts 1
Following the euphoria of World Cup qualification, the Nations League provided a reality check in a tough group alongside Belgium and the Netherlands. Wales were far from over-awed by their elite-level opponents with a draw at home to Belgium followed by a heart-breaking 93rd-minute defeat to the Dutch. Rob Page’s side lost by the odd goal to Belgium in a spirited performance, but it was the two book-ending defeats to Poland which proved costly. Wales were never outclassed and never lost by more than one goal but they struggled for firepower, scoring just six times with Nottingham Forest forward Brennan Johnson getting two of those.
P 6, W 4, D 1, L 1, Pts 13
Scotland, depleted through illness and injury, performed heroics in their final match against Ukraine in Krakow to secure the point they needed to finish top of Group B1 and clinch promotion to the top tier. Steve Clarke’s side bounced back from their heart-breaking World Cup play-off defeat to Ukraine in June by winning four of their next five matches, including victories over Ukraine and the Republic of Ireland in a memorable triple-header, which ended with Tuesday night’s goalless draw against Ukraine. Just one defeat in their six group matches – 3-0 against the Republic in June – saw them finish two points clear at the top.
Republic of Ireland
P 6, W 2, D 1, L 3, Pts 7
The Republic of Ireland ended a disappointing campaign with a narrow 3-2 win against Armenia and had to avoid defeat in Dublin in their final game to avoid relegation to the third tier. After Stephen Kenny’s side lost their opening two matches to Armenia and Ukraine, their undoubted high was a 3-0 home defeat of Scotland in June – they drew 1-1 in Ukraine three days later – but last Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Scotland at Hampden Park left them looking over their shoulders. Robbie Brady’s late penalty on Tuesday night spared their blushes after they had conceded a 2-0 lead, while Kenny will point to the emergence of several young players as a positive.
P 6, W 1, D 2, L 3, Pts 5
Northern Ireland crashed to their third Group C2 defeat on Tuesday night, losing 3-1 in Greece, and only avoided relegation from the third tier on goal difference after Cyprus lost 5-1 in Kosovo. It has been a hugely disappointing campaign for the Irish, during which the Green and White Army have called for boss Ian Baraclough to go and boos rang out from their travelling fans again in Athens. Saturday’s 2-1 home win against Kosovo was their first win in 15 Nations League matches and their third-placed finish means they face a tough draw for the Euro 2024 qualifiers, which start in March.
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