THE Nations League wasn’t met with much enthusiasm when it was introduced five years a go with most fans seeing it as another way for UEFA to squeeze more money out of the game.
But it has actually turned out to be a pleasant surprise, a bit like being railroaded into buying tickets for Ed Sheeran by your significant other then discovering pop’s malignant spirit has been struck down with laryngitis just hours before the gig.
That’s mainly because the new tournament gave Scotland backdoor access to Euro 2020 and has also provided a safety net for Germany 2024 .
But the glitzy Nations League finals have also provided plenty of thrills, with Portugal lifting the trophy on home soil in 2019 before France claimed thrilling wins over Belgium and Spain to triumph two years ago.
The latest showpiece games have also been hugely entertaining, with nine goals scored across the two semis in midweek.
As hosts, the Netherlands were favourites to see off Croatia but they were passed off the park by Luka Modric and Co and didn’t deserve the late leveller that took the tie to extra-time.
The Croatian response was impressive as they rallied to end up 4-2 victors and silence the crowd in Rotterdam.
They now stand on the brink of delivering the first trophy in the country’s history but the bookies make them outsiders against Spain.
I fancied Italy to edge out the Spanish in the semi after watching Luis de la Fuente’s side turn in a woeful display as they lost at Hampden.
But Spain dominated the second half on Thursday and fully deserved their late winner through sub Joselu.
McBookie now make them 8/15 hot favourites to lift the trophy, with the Croats at 6/4.
That second price is mighty tempting as I was so impressed with how Croatia outplayed the Dutch.
It should be a tight game so the half-time draw also appeals at 6/5 with Bet365.
Croatia picked up four yellows in their semi and that makes over 2.5 cards for Zlatko Dalic’s team worth a look here at 27/20 (Unibet).
The same firm also price Modric at 27/20 just to have a shot on target and that looks decent.
The third-place play-off acts as a warm-up and Ronald Koeman badly needs a win after his side’s poor semi-final display.
McBookie make Holland just 8/11 to come out on top but the odds increase to 6/5 for a win in 90 minutes.
Neither side impressed at the back in midweek and combining BTTS with over 2.5 match goals pays close to evens.
- Super singles: Croatia to lift trophy (6/4, McBookie), Over 2.5 Croatia cards (27/20, Univet) Half-time draw in final (6/5, Bet365). Dutch win in 90 minutes (6/5, McBookie).
- McBookie bet builder: Backing BTTS and over 2.5 goals in Netherlands v Italy pays 93/100.