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UEFA Nations League: What to look out for on Matchday 1

Belgium welcome the Netherlands and Spain host Portugal in the opening batch of fixtures.

Belgium celebrate their last goal against the Netherlands, in a 1-1 friendly draw in 2018
Belgium celebrate their last goal against the Netherlands, in a 1-1 friendly draw in 2018 Getty Images

The third edition of the UEFA Nations League kicks off in June, with five more matchdays to come ahead of the final tournament in June 2023. UEFA.com picks out the big fixtures of the opening three days.

All the Nations League fixtures

Thursday 2 June
Group A2: Czech Republic vs Switzerland, Spain vs Portugal
Group B2: Albania vs Russia, Israel vs Iceland
Group B4: Serbia vs Norway, Slovenia vs Sweden
Group C2: Cyprus/Estonia vs Kosovo, Northern Ireland vs Greece
Group C4: Georgia vs Gibraltar (18:00), Bulgaria vs North Macedonia 
Group D2: Cyprus/Estonia vs San Marino

Friday 3 June
Group A1: Croatia vs Austria, France vs Denmark
Group A4: Belgium vs Netherlands, Poland vs Wales 
Group C3: Kazakhstan/Moldova vs Azerbaijan (16:00/20:45), Slovakia vs Belarus
Group D1: Latvia vs Andorra, Liechtenstein vs Kazakhstan/Moldova

Saturday 4 June
Group A3: Hungary vs England (18:00), Italy vs Germany
Group B1: Scotland vs Armenia (15:00), Republic of Ireland vs Ukraine 
Group B3: Finland vs Bosnia and Herzegovina (18:00), Montenegro vs Romania
Group C1: Lithuania vs Luxembourg (18:00), Turkey vs Faroe Islands

Low Countries 'derby' kicks off Group A4

Martínez 'delighted' with Belgium draw
Martínez 'delighted' with Belgium draw

"Playing against Holland is a real derby, a footballing derby, a big occasion," Belgium boss Roberto Martínez told UEFA.com after the UEFA Nations League draw. Such big occasions have favoured the Red Devils in recent years: they are unbeaten in seven games against the Oranje since the start of the millennium (W2 D5), though all of those matches were friendlies.

Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal called Belgium "one of the favourites, a top team" as he looked ahead to the group stage, but will be well aware that the 16 competitive fixtures between the teams have favoured his side (W9 D4 L3). The Netherlands' last competitive game in Belgium ended in a 3-0 win in a December 1996 FIFA World Cup qualifier, Dennis Bergkamp, Clarence Seedorf and Wim Jonk the scorers. Is it time for the old order to be restored?

Spain welcome neighbours Portugal

Spain v Portugal: the full EURO 2012 semi-final shoot-out
Spain v Portugal: the full EURO 2012 semi-final shoot-out

Intrigue is guaranteed as the Iberian rivals come together on the opening night of action in Group A2, but decisive results are not. The sides' last four meetings have ended level (including 0-0s in 2020 and 2021), while Portugal have secured draws in their last five matches in Spain.

Cristiano Ronaldo's long association with Real Madrid may add some extra spice to the tie; the Portugal striker scored a hat-trick in a 3-3 draw against Spain at the 2018 World Cup finals, and confirmed on Instagram after Manchester United's 2-0 win at Villarreal in the UEFA Champions League group stage that a trip to his old stamping ground tends to get his creative juices flowing: "Always great to play in Spain, amazing to win in Spain, satisfying to score in Spain, a country where I always felt special."

Germany visit bogey team Italy

EURO 2012 highlights: Germany 1-2 Italy
EURO 2012 highlights: Germany 1-2 Italy

Group A3 rivals England may regard Germany as their most troublesome opponents (regardless of their win at UEFA EURO 2020), but as far as Die Mannschaft are concerned, Italy are the side that have caused them most problems. The current European champions have beaten Germany in the semi-finals of two World Cups and EURO 2012, and also in the final of the 1982 World Cup.

Germany beat Italy on penalties in the quarter-finals of EURO 2016 to redress the balance a little, but as they embark on their first campaign under new coach Hansi Flick, they will be eager to get their first away success against the Azzurri since a 2-1 friendly win in February 1986.

Further ahead?

England vs Germany down the years
England vs Germany down the years

• There is a 2018 World Cup final rematch on Matchday 2 as Croatia welcome France on Monday 6 June. Les Bleus' 4-2 win in Moscow helped them to maintain their unbeaten record against Croatia (W6 D2). "It will be a great pleasure to meet my colleague [Zlatko] Dalić again," said France boss Didier Deschamps. Dalić will hope to enjoy this meeting more.

• English minds will be flashing back to EURO 2020 in the coming matchdays. On 7 June, they will be taking on Germany, having vercome their old rivals 2-0 in the round of 16 last summer, but a more fraught encounter comes four days later when Italy return to Wembley, where they beat their hosts on penalties in the EURO final.

Key dates

Matchday 2: 5–7 June 2022
Matchdays 3 & 4: 9–14 June 2022
Matchdays 5 & 6: 22–27 September 2022
Finals draw: tbc
Semi-finals: 14 & 15 June 2023
Final & third-place match: 18 June 2023
Play-outs: 21–23 & 24–26 March 2024

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All kick-off times 20:45 CET unless stated