Latest updates

Check the Important info page for latest updates! (4 April 2024)

Thursday, October 15, 2020

UEFA Nations League 2020 simulations (October 2020)

Matchdays three and four in the group stage of the UEFA Nations League 2020-2021 have been played last week in the October window.

After the UNL group matches the November 2020 ranking will then be used to seed the draw of the 10 European qualifying groups for the World Cup 2022 in Qatar.

I've made 10.000 simulations of all the currently scheduled matches for UEFA teams to be played in the November window. All probabilities in %.

First the EURO 2020 qualifying play-offs. The semi-finals were also played last week. The four path finals are played in November and the probabilities per team to qualify for EURO 2021 look like this:

path A: Hungary - Iceland  (77,57 - 22,43)
path B: Northern Ireland - Slovakia  (71,38 - 28,62)
path C: Serbia - Scotland  (78,81 - 21,19)
path D: Georgia - North Macedonia  (74,15 - 25,85)

Overwhelming advantages for all the home teams, but the matches in recent months have shown that home advantage in this period with matches behind closed doors or with only few fans on the stands is hardly a decisive factor anymore.

Then the final standings for the groups in the UEFA Nations League 2020. Teams are ordered by their average group position:

Then the probabilities to reach and win the Nations League finals. In square brackets you find the probabilities to qualify for the round, given qualification for the previous knock-out round.

No, it won't be a Belgium - Netherlands final. Instead Belgium - France seems likely.

And finally the probabilities for each team to land in each pot for the WC qualifying draw. The teams are ordered by their average ranking position for UEFA teams in the November ranking (avg).

Denmark had a splendid week, with wins against Iceland and England they secured their spot in pot 1. Their place in the battle is taken over by the Dutch who are struggling to win their matches. Still, they currently have an advantage of 7 points over Switzerland who looks to be the main candidate to drop to pot 2.

To stay in pot 2 Turkey had a relatively good week with two draws against direct opponents Russia and Serbia. In this fight where there are few wins and many losses a draw is a good thing. Look at the Republic of Ireland (with one draw and a loss) who climbs to pot 2. But this fight will remain close until the very end with Russia and Slovakia and Northern Ireland  also in the mix. Romania seems to have thrown their pot 2 chances in the wind though.

Greece for pot 3 against Finland and Luxembourg for pot 4 against Cyprus seem to have decided their battles.

About me:

Software engineer, happily unmarried and non-religious. You won't find me on Twitter or other so called social media. Dutchman, joined the blog in March 2018.


  1. Do you know the percentage chance of Scotland reaching pot 2 if they win in Serbia (not on penalties), draw with Slovakia and then beat Israel? Also the percentage chance of pot 2 if Scotland won all three games if possible.


  2. J, I don't know the exact probabilities. I can't set certain future match results to fixed values in my simulation.
    What I can calculate is that Scotland with 2 wins and a draw has 1465 points in November and then you are only 2 points behind Republic of Ireland which is the 20th UEFA-team in November (so last in pot 2) when all other scheduled match results go according to elo.
    With 3 wins Scotland will have 1472 points and will be the 19th UEFA team, again with all other matches going as elo predicts. So I'd say you'd have a good shot at pot 2 with three wins in your 3 remaining matches.

    1. Thanks. Yeah, three wins does look necessary for pot 2 unfortunately.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. The penalty shoot out win and qualification was fantastic just a slight shame Scotland didn't hold on for the win in 90 minutes for the shot at UEFA WCQ pot 2 with Rep Ireland continuing to struggle

  3. It wouldn't be the first time the Dutch press and TV have it wrong, but they report regularly that the first 10 teams in the final ranking of the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League will be used to determine the seeds for the World Cup qualifying and not the FIFA ranking. I don't know where they got this information but the best information I can find is that FIFA still have to confirm UEFA's suggestions on how the seeds should be determined...

    1. And here is the confirmation that they are wrong :)

  4. I just look at the FIFA regulations for the past editions of World Cup qualifying, how the actual seeding was done in those editions and the current regulations for qualifying which are not altered in this aspect. They still describe only one adamant rule regarding seeding: seeding of teams in a confederation for World Cup qualification must be based on the FIFA ranking.
    So for me there is not the slightest doubt that the FIFA November ranking will be used. What other pundits say or other 'well-informed' media write, doesn't matter to me. They were indeed wrong earlier and will be wrong now. And in that case you won't hear anything anymore about their earlier information, I would almost say 'fake news' :)

  5. Have you looked into backing off homefield adv for games played without fans? I think 538 is discounting like 60% of home field for games playing in empty stadiums, but i'm sure thats relatively arbitrary

  6. Interesting question, Alex. Above simulations are with HFA completely included like normal. I see that the prediction success rate of elo predictions with HFA included the last two months is significantly lower than normal (when it is close to 60%). These last two months the success rate is only around 50%, so that may certainly be an indication that HFA should be lowered, but by how much ? I will try to analyze that, some evening soon, and report about my findings.

  7. I made a quick analysis: regarding all matches played in September and October (N = 185) I found an optimal prediction success rate at a 75% reduced HFA. This leads to a 6% improvement of the prediction success rate.

    Using a 75% reduced HFA I simulated all November matches again. In the results you see some 6 percent-point lower probabilities for the home teams to win in the EURO 2021 final qualifiers. The probabilities to land in each pot for the qualifying draw differs at some places only marginally and sometimes with some 2 to 4 percent points. Biggest difference was Greece that saw their chance to end in pot 3 diminish with 6 percent-point, Finland profited. Overall the trends in the simulation results are the same, as was to be expected of course.

    1. I think likely the interesting way this analysis could come into play would revolve around a return to fans in stadiums (realistically what... Summer '21 absolute best case?), during the middle of a large group stage (most WC Qualifiers) and then having a lopsided stage where certain matches had no fans, and the return leg had fans. Obviously no way to really avoid this scheduling bias, interesting though.

  8. FIFA published regulations on the shape of UEFA World Cup qualifying play-offs:

  9. Finland won France today. Does that make a significant difference on their probability to make pot?

  10. Yes, their chance to reach pot 3 rises from 25% to 45%. Still trailing Greece, but now it's almost a coin's toss between the two. A good and important win by the Fins !

  11. Greece actually needs one more point than Finland in the 2 remaining matches, but their schedule is a bit easier.

  12. After Switzerland’s draw with Spain, the Netverlands now only need to win against Bosnia to secure the 10th spot. Even draws against Bosnia at home and Poland away will be enough also no matter what the result is between Switzerland and Ukraine in their match.

    1. I mean, if they beat Bosnia then the final match against Poland doesn’t matter any more. They can then even afford to lose to Poland.

  13. Bosnia in pot 4. Unbelievable but true.

    1. Finland winning in France was basically that 1.32% chance that materialized. In the end, it was 1 point that separated Finland and BIH. Incredible, but true.

  14. SVK, ROU, RUS, IRL - 2 of them are in pot 2, which ones?

  15. The current FIFA November ranking for UEFA teams after MD6 of the UNL:

    pos team points diff MD6
    1 Belgium 1777 3
    2 France 1755 5
    3 England 1670 4
    4 Portugal 1662 7
    5 Spain 1645 7
    6 Italy 1625 5
    7 Croatia 1617 -7
    8 Denmark 1616 -3
    9 Germany 1610 -7
    10 Netherlands 1609 7
    11 Switzerland 1586 0 (SUI-UKR not played, with 3:0 forfeit win 1593)
    12 Wales 1562 6
    13 Poland 1559 -7
    14 Sweden 1558 -4
    15 Austria 1531 -1
    16 Ukraine 1528 0 (SUI-UKR not played, with 3:0 forfeit loss 1521)
    17 Serbia 1495 8
    18 Turkey 1487 -8
    19 Slovakia 1478 -8
    20 Romania (+1) 1466 0
    21 Russia (-1) 1461 -8
    22 Hungary 1460 8
    23 Republic of Ireland 1456 -2
    24 Czech Republic 1456 8
    25 Norway 1450 1
    26 Northern Ireland 1440 0
    27 Iceland 1438 -5
    28 Scotland 1436 -10
    29 Greece (+1) 1413 0
    30 Finland 1411 -6
    31 Bosnia-Herzegovina (-1) 1410 -5
    32 Slovenia 1379 0
    33 Montenegro 1370 6
    34 North Macedonia 1362 -10
    35 Albania 1360 7
    36 Bulgaria 1350 1
    37 Israel 1279 10
    38 Belarus 1269 -6
    39 Georgia 1267 -1
    40 Luxembourg 1235 -1
    41 Armenia 1233 9
    42 Cyprus 1224 -5
    43 Faroe Islands 1183 -3
    44 Azerbaijan 1180 0
    45 Estonia 1180 1
    46 Kosovo 1155 5
    47 Kazakhstan 1142 -8
    48 Lithuania 1114 9
    49 Latvia 1082 7
    50 Andorra 1048 -7
    51 Malta 951 3
    52 Moldova 950 -5
    53 Liechtenstein 924 -1
    54 Gibraltar 888 1
    55 San Marino 810 0

  16. It means ROU has points for winning against NOR for free. It is not fair.

    1. Even old "Ed" - Eduard/Edgar - couldn't have sorted that out for them...

    2. I couldn't have said it better :D