The UEFA Nations League: What is it?
The UEFA Nations League is a new format for international teams. There is four leagues, with 55 teams, all from Europe, competing in them. UEFA say they have come up with this idea to “improve the quality and standing of national team football.” They believe that this idea will add more sporting meaning in national team football, and this league will be a replacement for friendly matches, which UEFA say do not “provide adequate competition for national teams.”
UEFA have been discussing and thinking of this idea since 2011, and it took them three years to come up with this idea.
This is how the league is formatted. Initially the top ranked sides will be in League A, and the lowest ranked teams will be put in League D.
There are three pots for League A.
Pot 1: Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Spain
Pot 2: France, England, Switzerland, Italy
Pot 3: Poland, Iceland, Croatia, Netherlands
These teams will be split up into four groups of three – as shown in the diagram. The four teams that finish bottom of their groups will be relegated to League B for the 2020 edition, furthermore the top four ranked teams that do not qualify for UEFA EURO 2020 will enter a play-off in March 2020.
There is also three pots for League B.
Pot 1: Austria, Wales, Russia, Slovakia
Pot 2: Sweden, Ukraine, Republic of Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Pot 3: Northern Ireland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Turkey
Just like League A, the teams will be split into four groups of three teams. Russia cannot be drawn with Ukraine, due to the potential trouble it could bring. The four group winners are promoted to League A, with the four sides that finish bottom relegated to League C for the next competition. The top four ranked teams that do not qualify for UEFA EURO 2020 will enter a play-off in March 2020.
League C has four pots of teams. With pots 1-3 having four teams in them and pot 4 having three teams in it.
Pot 1: Hungary, Romania, Scotland, Slovenia
Pot 2: Greece, Serbia, Albania, Norway
Pot 3: Montenegro, Israel, Bulgaria, Finland
Pot 4: Cyprus, Estonia, Lithuania
Due to winter venue restrictions, a group can contain a maximum of two of these teams each: Norway, Finland, Estonia and Lithuania. The four group winners are promoted to League B, with the four sides that finish bottom relegated to League D for the next tournament. The top four ranked teams that do not qualify for UEFA EURO 2020 will enter a play-off in March 2020.
League D is probably the most interesting league. This league sees the worst ranked nations battle it out, including San Marino, Gibraltar and Malta.
Pot 1: Azerbaijan, FYR Macedonia, Belarus, Georgia
Pot 2: Armenia, Latvia, Faroe Islands, Luxembourg
Pot 3: Kazakhstan, Moldova, Liechtenstein, Malta
Pot 4: Andorra, Kosovo, San Marino, Gibraltar
Armenia and Azerbaijan cannot be drawn in the same group – probably due to the ongoing conflict happening between them. Furthermore, due to travel restrictions, any group can contain a maximum of one of these pairs: Andorra & Kazakhstan, Faroe Islands & Kazakhstan, Gibraltar & Kazakhstan, Gibraltar & Azerbaijan. The four group winners are promoted to League C and the top four ranked teams that do not qualify for UEFA EURO 2020 will enter a play-off in March 2020.
The draw for this competition will take place at the SwissTech Covention on the 24th January next year. The nation’s league can actually provide teams another chance to qualify for the UEFA EURO final tournament – thanks to the matches taking place in March 2020.
The UEFA Nations League group games will be held over six matchdays, in September, October and November 2018. The UEFA Nations League Finals competition for the teams that win the four groups within the top division is scheduled for June 2019. For the UEFA Nations League Finals, the group winners of UEFA Nations League A will play in a knockout format in June 2019 to be crowned the UEFA Nations League winners. The host country will be appointed in December 2018.
Ten groups with the top two teams in each group qualify automatically for the Euros, and the other four places being awarded to European Qualifiers play-off winners, in which the 16 group winners of the UEFA Nations League will be in contention. Because of this the UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying draw will be made after the completion of the UEFA Nations League. This diagram by UEFA is helpful in understanding the process.
Within each league (A, B, C and D), the overall UEFA rankings will be calculated based on position in the group, then, in order, points, goal difference, goals scored, away goals scored, wins, away wins, disciplinary points and lastly coefficient ranking.
There are various advantages to this league. There is more sporting competition than frendlies, and these matches are meaningful and competitive. For middle-ranking and smaller nations, the UEFA Nations League will offer an extra way to qualify for UEFA EURO final tournaments. Lower-tier countries – the bottom 16 in the rankings – are now guaranteed one of the 24 qualifying slots for Euros. Furthermore, Lower-ranking teams who have struggled against sides ranked considerably higher than them will now get the chance to take part in balanced matches.
The Calendar is also structured in such a way that friendly matches can still take place. This is helpful for teams who may want to face opposition from outside Europe. Most friendlies are not watched by supporters as they see the football as meaningless, now they will have the opportunity to see their teams play in more competitive matches and see their team get a second chance to qualify for the major tournaments.
UEFA also say that the demand on the players and clubs is the same as before – however to me it seems as if there will be more strain on players, as they will surely be playing more games?
For one though, I like this idea. It adds more incentive, and I can’t wait to see how things unwrap.