England have been drawn against Spain and Croatia in the inaugural UEFA Nations League draw. The Three Lions have ended up in one of the toughest groups in the competition, but what is this competition for and why has the change come about?
For the benefit of reference, all leagues and groups are listed lower down in this article.
UEFA Nations League: England Given Tough Draw
What is it?
All UEFA nations are split into four leagues (A, B, C and D), dependent on their UEFA coefficient, and drawn into groups from those leagues.
Likened to an international version of the Intertoto Cup, people are divided on the merits of the Nations League. It was introduced to end ‘pointless’ friendlies and provide more games for European nations against teams of a similar standing.
However, detractors believe it is too confusing and offers a backdoor into the European Championships for sides that wouldn’t necessarily deserve one.
What’s on offer to be won?
Aside from a trophy at the end for eventual winners from League A, there are four spots at Euro 2020 up for grabs (one for each league).
And how are they allocated?
Here is where it gets a bit more complicated.
- Each league has four group winners. These, in theory would go into a Euro 2020 play-off against other group winners from the same league. However, at this point, 20 teams will already have qualified for Euro 2020 so will be ineligible for the play-offs.
- If a group winner is ineligible, the next best ranked team from their Nations League (not necessarily their group).
- If there are not enough teams in a Nations League, the best ranked team not already qualified from the next league will be placed in the playoffs (e.g. a team from League B could end up in the League A playoffs, but this is done after step 2).
- The play-offs involve a single-leg semi-final and a single-leg final for each side. All eventual winners will be rewarded with a spot at Euro 2020. The winners of the League A play-offs will be crowned UEFA Nations League Champions.
- Everyone takes a breather and wonders why we needed something so complicated in the first place.
Right… Will England always be in League A?
No. The team that finishes bottom of each group is relegated to the League below. The team that tops each group is promoted to the League above. This ensures no team falls significantly behind the other teams in its League.
Let’s see the groups then… League A?
Group 1: Netherlands, France, Germany
Group 2: Iceland, Switzerland, Belgium
Group 3: Poland, Italy, Portugal
Group 4: Croatia, England, Spain
Group 1: Czech Republic, Ukraine, Slovakia
Group 2: Turkey, Sweden, Russia
Group 3: Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria
Group 4: Denmark, Republic of Irleand, Wales
Group 1: Israel, Albania, Scotland
Group 2: Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary
Group 3: Cyprus, Bulgaria, Norway, Slovenia
Group 4: Lithuania, Montenegro, Serbia, Romania
Group 1: Andorra, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Georgia
Group 2: San Marino, Moldova, Luxembourg, Belarus
Group 3: Kosovo, Malta, Faroe Islands, Azerbaijan
Group 4: Gibraltar, Liechtenstein, Armenia, Macedonia
So one of League D is guaranteed to be at Euro 2020?
Correct. This is the golden ticket for nations that previously only dreamt of appearing at a major international tournament.
Now we wait to see how much confusion can be spread before the tournament starts. The dates you need to know are as follows:
Matchday 1: 6–8 September 2018
Matchday 2: 9–11 September 2018
Matchday 3: 11–13 October 2018
Matchday 4: 14–16 October 2018
Matchday 5: 15–17 November 2018
Matchday 6: 18–20 November 2018
Nations League Finals draw: early December 2018
Nations League Finals: 5–9 June 2019
UEFA EURO 2020 play-off draw: 22 November 2019
UEFA EURO 2020 play-offs: 26–31 March 2020
I need a lie down.
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