The 2022-23 UEFA Nations League was tough for most of the home nations, with the exception being Scotland, who earned promotion to the top tier of the competition for the first time.
There was plenty of pessimism surrounding Steve Clarke’s team heading into this month’s triple header in League B Group 1 after they ended the last international break by losing in the World Cup playoffs to Ukraine and being comprehensively beaten by the Republic of Ireland in the Nations League.
The defeat to the Irish had left the Tartan Army facing an uphill battle to top the group, but despite having their squad decimated by withdrawals over the break, they took seven points from two matches against Ukraine and the return fixture with the Republic to clinch promotion.
Tuesday’s 0-0 draw with Ukraine in Krakow sealed first place for Scotland and it does not just ensure that they will be playing in League A of the next edition on the Nations League, as they have also guaranteed a playoff spot for Euro 2024, while they will be in pot two when the qualification draw is made for that competition next month.
Scotland have also stolen the home nation bragging rights, as while they were securing promotion to the top tier of the Nations League, England and Wales were suffering relegation.
England’s demotion was confirmed following their dismal 1-0 defeat in Italy on Friday night and the pressure was seemingly mounting on Gareth Southgate’s side as they trailed Germany 2-0 at Wembley during the second half of their final League A Group 3 match on Monday.
That match was also England’s last ahead of the upcoming World Cup and supporters would have been relieved to see the team rally as they eventually claimed a 3-3 draw.
However, this Nations League campaign appears to have asked more questions than it has answered, with the Three Lions having plenty of work to do if they are to fulfil their aspirations in Qatar (England 7/1 to win World Cup).
The same can be said of Wales, who will be in England’s group at the World Cup, as back-to-back defeats to Belgium and Poland saw Robert Page’s side relegated from League A Group 4 with just a solitary point to their name (Wales 11/2 to win Group B).
Northern Ireland could easily have made it a trio of relegations for the home nations, but Ian Baraclough’s side just about kept their heads above water despite winning just one of their six matches in League C Group 2.
It was certainly a campaign of struggle for the Green and White Army, who now face an uphill battle to qualify for Euro 2024, as their performances in the Nations League mean they will be in pot five when that qualification draw is made. England and Wales will be in pot two alongside Scotland.
Republic of Ireland finished third in Scotland’s group to preserve their League B status, but it was far from a vintage campaign for Stephen Kenny’s side, who confirmed their survival by beating a nine-man Armenia outfit 3-2 on Tuesday night.
The Republic will not be heading to the World Cup and they will be in pot three for the Euro 2024 draw.