Group B4 consists of Finland – the only team of the four that has confirmed their place at Euro 2020. Two Home Nations, the Republic of Ireland and Wales, also feature, both of which are expected to compete with Huuhkajat for first place. Bulgaria have little reason to be optimistic, but could still cause some upsets. This article will be predicting Group 4 of UEFA Nations League B.
Predicting Group 4 of UEFA Nations League B
Bulgaria will presumably be relegated. The Lions won just one game in Euro 2020 qualifying – 1-0 in Sofia against a Czech Republic side that had nothing to play for. They finished behind England, the Czech Republic, and even Kosovo. It wasn’t even with a close margin, finishing five points behind Dardanët. Wales, Finland, and the Republic of Ireland are all better than Bulgaria. It’s disappointing considering the Bulgarians’ performance in 2018 World Cup qualifying gave them hope for the future, as they defeated the Netherlands and Sweden.
Microscopic Margins Favour Wales
Finland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland obtained 12, 13 and 14 points respectively in 2019 European Qualifiers (excluding Finland’s matches played against sixth-placed Liechtenstein). Little to nothing separates them. On top of this, they all play a similar type of football. Focusing on disciplined defending as their core, they play as one unit to make up for their lack of superstars. However, Wales do boast Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.
Exclusively using performances in Euro qualifying has the potential to be misleading. For example, if the weakest team of Group X is weaker than the weakest team of Group Y, it can bloat the points obtained by a team in Group X. To somewhat mitigate this, only matches between the top four teams in each group will be considered.
Using this ‘method’ (if it can be called that), Wales obtained the most points (eight), whereas Finland and the Republic of Ireland obtained six and seven respectively. This is a fairer reflection because Cymru’s qualification group was more competitive. Despite this, and even before applying this ‘method’, Wales had the best goal difference of the three teams. These microscopic margins give them a slight edge.
The Republic of Ireland’s Biggest Weakness is Also a Strength
The Republic of Ireland adapt to the level of their opponents. This is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because it gives them the ability to draw 1-1 against the likes of Switzerland and Denmark, but a curse because it also makes them scrap past Gibraltar with a single goal. All three of these results happened in Euro 2020 qualifying.
Finland are slightly weaker than Denmark and Switzerland, so if the Boys in Green can hold those two to draws, winning against the Finns seems more probable than losing. That’s why Eire has to be faintly favoured over Huuhkajat.