North Macedonia’s success story may just be another chapter in the making. The 2022-23 UEFA Nations League season kicks off in less than a month, making this an appropriate time to forecast how the tournament will unfold. This is is the second in a series of articles that will predict every group, starting with League D and moving up until League A is completed. More specifically, the teams that will be promoted and relegated. Or in the case of League C, promoted and “qualifying” for the relegation ‘play-outs’.
2022-23 UEFA Nations League C Predictions: A New Chapter Beckons in North Macedonia’s Success Story
Turkey Heading Back Up Where They Belong
Turkey seem out of place alongside Luxembourg, Lithuania and the Faroe Islands. The Turks are the definitive favourites to top this group as they are simply stronger than any other team in it. They have better players and were superior in qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, despite falling short in the play-outs.
Out of the remaining three teams, Luxembourg is the strongest. Given their small population, this might seem counterintuitive, and in a way it is, but they outperformed Lithuania and the Faroe Islands in 2022 World Cup qualifying and the previous Nations League season. They even sensationally defeated the Republic of Ireland in Dublin.
Distinguishing Lithuania and the Faroe Islands is more complicated, as they played in different divisions in the preceding Nations League campaign. Additionally, the points they obtained per match in World Cup qualifying are too minuscule to base conclusions on. Elo ratings are required as a tiebreaker, which makes the Faroe Islands poised for the relegation play-outs. Lithuania being relegated instead of them is also within the realm of possibility, though.
Greece to Win Competitive League C Group
Containing Northern Ireland, Greece, Kosovo and Cyprus, Group C2 could very well be considered the ‘group of death’ of this Nations League division. The two front-runners for promotion are Northern Ireland and Greece, with Kosovo and Cyprus likely fighting to stay up. Hellas should be marginally favoured over Nothern Ireland since they performed better in World Cup qualifying and enjoy a slightly higher Elo rating. For similar reasons, Kosovo looks likely to reign supreme over Cyprus. The island nation will probably be heading to the relegation play-outs.
Slovakia to Be Promoted, Belarus Fortunate to Not Be Suspended
Group C3 consists of Slovakia, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. The Belarussian national team can count itself lucky to even be allowed to participate, due to the country’s involvement in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They do have to play behind closed doors, though, which undoubtedly is a disadvantage. Regardless, Azerbaijan are more likely to be relegated to the play-outs. They have the worst Elo rating and were outperformed by all the other Group C3 teams in World Cup qualifying. Using the same logic, Slovakia should be able to finish in first place. Not to mention that their squad is by far the strongest.
North Macedonia’s Success Story Continues
With Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Georgia, Group C4 also has a decent case to be regarded as the ‘group of death’. The one thing holding it back is the notably weaker side Gibraltar, who will almost certainly finish in fourth place as they simply are the weakest out of these four teams. It’s still worth noting that Gibraltar is pretty good for such a new and small national team. However, this group is too hard for them.
Even though first place isn’t as clear-cut, North Macedonia will likely achieve promotion. They performed better in World Cup qualifying than any other Group C4 team. The Lynxes even managed to sensationally defeat Italy and Germany. It’s worth noting that Georgia also have a bit of an ‘X’ factor. This was highlighted by them leading Spain at one point and shockingly beating Sweden in World Cup qualifiers. Either way, North Macedonia’s greater consistency gives them an edge. Bulgaria won’t stand a chance of being promoted unless they enjoy massive improvements.
To read our predictions for other Nations League divisions, click below.
Main Photo Credit: Pit1233