Group B1 consists of Norway and Romania, who twice faced off in Euro 2020 qualifying. Alongside those two are Northern Ireland, the victim of a highly competitive qualification group that featured Germany and the Netherlands, and Austria, the only team of this mix that has confirmed qualification for Euro 2020, rounds off the group – that should be named ‘the group of close margins’. This article will be predicting Group 1 of UEFA Nations League B.
Predicting Group 1 of UEFA Nations League B
Norway are a Cut Above Romania
The two matches played between Norway and Romania in European Qualifiers ended in a draw. But, the Norwegians acquired three more points than Tricolorii throughout qualification, indicating the Scandinavians are somewhat superior.
Additionally, Løvene held Spain to a 1-1 draw in Oslo and narrowly lost 2-1 away, thanks to a Sergio Ramos penalty. They made Sweden look like amateurs on home soil after their 1-1 draw against them. Norway have been experiencing a near meteoric rise throughout these last few years. In July 2017, Norway sat at 88th place of the FIFA World Rankings. As of August 2020, they are ranked 45th. And this rank doesn’t entirely do them justice considering their qualification group was so tough.
Assessing Northern Ireland
Assessing Northern Ireland is quite a challenge. If you compare the points the teams in this Nations League group obtained in European Qualifiers (excluding matched played against sixth teams), Northern Ireland obtained the second-highest point tally, being trumped only by Austria.
But now the challenging part: One must compare the teams Norn Iron faced with the teams’ other teams in Group B1 faced in their respective qualifying groups. Northern Ireland had the unenviable task of facing Germany and the Netherlands. Losing three out of four matches and holding the Dutch to a 0-0 draw in Belfast, despite missing a penalty. They were battered 6-1 by the Germans in Frankfurt but lost the other two matches respectably.
Now let’s look at Norway’s group. Sweden, although good, is not quite on the same level as Die Mannschaft and Oranje. But, Spain are. All of Løvene’s games were close encounters. They never lost by more than one goal. Northern Ireland did, though. 6-1 and 2-0 against Germany and 3-1 against the Dutch. To be fair, Norn Iron’s loss against Oranje was the result of three late goals.
However, if you put all of this together, it’s indicative of Northern Ireland being less consistent than Norway. Furthermore, the two other teams in Norn Iron’s group were Belarus and Estonia. Meanwhile, Norway was accompanied by the Faroe Islands and Romania. The ladder of the two being notably stronger than Belarus and Estonia.
Northern Ireland’s 13 points eclipse Romania’s eight. Norn Iron should be favoured over Tricolorii. In a similar fashion, Austria’s 16 points indicate they are vaguely better than the Green and White Army.
In summary, Northern Ireland is better than Romania but marginally worse than Norway and Austria.
Austria Also Exceed Romania
Romania finished fourth in their qualification group with 14 points, behind Spain, Sweden and Norway. Austria finished as runners-up with 19 points, behind Poland. Although Burschen’s qualification group was significantly easier than Tricolorii’s, the five-point difference is impossible to neglect. The difference is too big for it to be solely attributed to bad luck when it comes to drawing lots for groups.
Norway’s Consistency Tops That of Austria
Norway only lost one game in European Qualifiers. Austria lost three, 1-0 against Poland, 4-2 against Israel and 1-0 against Latvia. In Austria’s defence, they did win more matches than the Norwegians. But, at the same time, Norway’s group was far more difficult than that of Austria. If Austria lose at home to Poland, a victory is certainly not out of bounds for the Scandinavians in Oslo.
Wins are, of course, more important. However, if Norway can manage draws against Sweden and, especially, Spain, winning against Austria seems more probable than losing.