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Odds and Ends

Nations League: Portugal To Keep Cruising

by Josh Ricker
Updated On: June 11, 2022, 8:19 pm ET

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Say what you will about the Nations League, but for me it has been full of excitement. Mediocre starts from France and England in League A have been the most glaring surprises. Elsewhere, in Leagues B and C, I have really been impressed by the likes of Norway and Greece, who have had near perfect starts. 

Some fans might take this with a grain of salt, as rotation and youth flow throughout most of these sides. However, after the looming World Cup, this competition offers another chance at silverware next summer. You cannot try telling me a country like England would not want to give their trophy cabinet a face lift.

Regardless, the Sunday Nations League slate is one I am heavily interested in. This will be part of the last round of group stage play until September and will be a chance for countries to really solidify their bids for the finals or promotion.

Switzerland vs Portugal (Sunday, 2:45 p.m. ET)

Portugal Moneyline (+112)

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First, let us be brutally honest about Switzerland; they have been shocking so far. If three consecutive losses to the Czech Republic, Portugal and Spain was not enough, they have only managed to score one goal in the process. 

Xherdan Shaqiri does not seem to have the same electricity of years past and Haris Seferović has been M.I.A. since his brilliance at Euro 2020. On the back side, the goalkeeping performances have been dodgy to say the least. In fact, Gregor Kobel got the nod between the sticks in the reverse fixture against Portugal and arguably was at fault for three of the four goals conceded. 

Murat Yakin will have Fabian Schär back for selection on Sunday, which can help shore up the defense. With that being said, it is still difficult to see the Rossocrociati seeing much positivity from this match. Portugal have been firing on all cylinders lately and have had no trouble scoring. They are scoring over 1.5 team goals in 70% of their last ten matches, which leads me to believe they just have more juice in this one. 

We know for a fact Portugal will win the possession battle and their right-hand flank is mesmerizing. João Cancelo just seems to glide down the wing and combine with whoever is in front of him. Rafael Leão or Cristiano Ronaldo; pick your poison. Either way, Ricardo Rodriguez is absolutely mismatched at left-back. 

The fact Portugal even has plus moneyline odds here is a bit surprising. A Seleção has won their last three matches against the Swiss by an aggregated score of nine-to-one. Ronaldo was behind five of those goals so an anytime goalscorer prop is not a bad addition to the Portugal moneyline. 

Norway vs Sweden (Sunday, 12 p.m. ET)

Norway Clean Sheet (+160) 

Now, I want to turn my attention to Norway vs Sweden in League B. I am intrigued by this play because it is a chance for Norway to really bolster their chances of promotion to League A. Serbia is hot on their tails with six points so they need to really keep the pace. Sweden does not seem to have much motivation here, so the task seems rather straightforward for a Norwegian team playing at home. 

On top of this, Sweden is playing with a makeshift defense as they are without the likes of Victor Lindelof, Carl Starfelt and Joakim Nilsson. In turn, I would expect Erling Haaland to get a plethora of chances in front of goal. The 21 year-old Manchester City signing has scored all three Norway goals in the Nations League so far, making his +325 first goalscorer odds seem rather valuable. 

Nonetheless, the bet I want to focus on is the Norway clean sheet. In their last six home matches, Norway has kept a clean sheet in five. Leo Skiri Østigård in particular is the standout of their defense for me. The former Genoa center-back is a rock in the middle and was above the 90th percentile for blocks and aerial duels in Europe’s top five leagues. He will be hovering in the area of Dejan Kulusevski, which makes his threat a little less daunting. 

If you get spooked by Sweden’s xG or possession in the reverse fixture, remember that Norway is also maintaining 63% possession at home. This is a hot pick, but one that could close out a very successful Sunday. 

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Josh Ricker

Josh is an avid and often unfiltered soccer content creator for NBC Sports EDGE, Dime and his own podcast, The Maine Stand. If he is not coming up with a juicy pick, you will most likely find him ground-hopping to new soccer stadiums. Follow Josh on twitter @lfc_jdr