Smart Money Soccer Picks For 9/4/2020 & 9/5/2020
The new club season begins next week. In the meantime, we will have to make do with International Soccer in the form of the UEFA Nations League. The new international tournament was brought into to provide fans and players alike with a little bit more added-in excitement in place of the often boring, tepid friendlies during the international break. Now entering its 2nd edition, the Nations League is coming off of a rather successful inaugural season, which saw Portugal run home winners. International soccer, even more so than club soccer, will hugely suffer without the presence of fans. Representing your country brings an atmospheric component, a driving component of what has made it so popular over the years.
Here are some picks to watch out for over the next couple of days:
The Dutch finally seem to be back. After a nearly 6-year period spent in exile from major international competition, a resurgence led by the almost Ballon D’or winner Virgil van Dijk and Ajax academy products Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong have put Holland back on the map.
Given the strangeness of the world compared with the relative meaninglessness of the game, this game may not necessarily be the game that requires a comprehensive analytical breakdown of the Dutch soccer identity. That being said, it is worth noting that Netherlands are no longer the team that lost to Iceland home and away in World Cup Qualifying.
After a promising UEFA Nations League campaign in 2019 that saw Netherlands finish runners-up to Portugal, I expect Netherlands to want to take this seriously and get the job done.
Netherlands will, however, have to deal with the loss of their manager, Ronald Koeman, who just recently joined Barcelona. But unlike most other national teams, Netherlands have the luxury of naming a full-strength squad. And that could make the difference.
Of course, it is very hard to talk about the Polish national team without talking about Robert Lewandowski. But that is exactly what Poland are going to have to do this weekend. Robert Lewandowski will miss out after leading Bayern to Champions League triumph too recently for him to be available.
Alternatively, they’ll have to rely on the goal-scoring prowess of Arkadiusz Milik if they are to stand any chance against a formidable Dutch backline.
Poland are not a bad side and even enjoyed a rich vein of form prior to this one. But I think the absence of Lewandowski is going to be overwhelmingly depleting.
We all know what happened the last time these two sides met. In one of the great European Championship upsets, Iceland stunned England by coming back from 1-0 down to win 2-1 in one of the darkest days in the history of the English national team (and that’s saying something).
This is a new-look England side, however. With players like Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, and Jordan Henderson, England now have one of the best sides in the world, on paper.
England had a good UEFA Nations League last time out. They qualified out of their group for the semi-finals, only to fall to Netherlands in extra time.
I expect England to win comfortably here, given the firepower in their squad.
Iceland are probably every person’s favorite underdogs. They stole the hearts of the world in Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup. They famously defeated England in 2018. But they also famously earned brilliant results against Portugal and Argentina along the way.
After by far their most golden of generations, Iceland’s Old Guard are very much up against father-time. Make no mistake, this Iceland side is still one of the best in their nation’s history. But there is no hiding that they lack the same quality they had a few years ago.
Iceland are capable of pulling off an upset. And I actually do still expect them to qualify for the Euros next summer. But this occasion might be a bridge too far.
Pick: England to cover. There is something different about this England team. For now, it seems that gone are the days of the English national team’s bottle jobs. Iceland will draw belief from their last meeting with England, but that will not be enough.