Inevitable anticipation accompanies the recommencing of club football, however thanks to UEFA’s much scorned Nations League tournament, this international break filled fans with the same excitement and elation that would normally only be associated with club football.
It was formerly a regular feature of international breaks for games to fade to a conclusion, with both sides settling on what they had in the last 20 minutes, choosing to reserve energy for upcoming league ties. This is something that seems to have been eradicated with the introduction of relegations and three team groups, an idea that when first touted was criticised by most football fans.
The increased significance of the games in this tournament was on display, not only in England’s heart-stopping comeback against Croatia, but also as Scotland edged out Israel to secure top spot at Hampden Park and when a youthful Holland side fought back from two goals down to condemn Germany to relegation.
The heightened excitement in games over the international has predictably led to a spike in betting activity, both in-play, on pre-match markets and even on ante post betting for a period that bookmakers would have previously deemed a dry spell as far as punting goes.
Oddschecker’s Callum Wilson gave us an insight into the popularity of the tournament, speaking after the England defeated Croatia, he revealed: “Over the last seven days, the team that has had the biggest stake of bet and greatest bet count is England in their game against Croatia. The game against the USA does not fare in the top five of these statistics, giving you a snapshot of the popularity that the Nations league has achieved compared to ‘regular’ international friendlies.”
He also emphasised the elevated importance of the games has seen in-play betting become a more attractive prospect for punters: “In-play betting tends to lend itself in popularity to the game in question, rather than the style of match itself.
“While the matches may receive more in-play betting than regular friendlies, this will be down more to the number of people watching than anything else. However, we have seen a higher volume of bets from the Three Lions’ game against Croatia than there were in England’s friendly against the USA.”
Underlining the importance of the Nations League ante post element, he added: “We received a spike in activity on our Nations League outright page following the final whistle of yesterday’s game against Croatia, and the Three lions went into 5/2 to win the Nations League off the back of their dramatic win. It’s another market for punters and one that could hold significant value with the tournament in its embryonic stages.”
The Nations League concludes in June, when the four winners of the top league, Portugal, Switzerland, Holland and England head to Portugal to contest a short knockout tournament to crown the inaugural Nations League winners.