A new era for International Football begins

During this week, a new chapter for international football has begun with the newly-formed UEFA Nations League. This new tournament involves European nations, and its aim according to UEFA is to “improve the quality and standing of national team football, with associations, coaches, players and supporters increasingly of the opinion that friendly matches are not providing adequate competition for national teams.”

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So: how does the Nations League work?

55 countries form part of UEFA. These 55 countries are split into four leagues, A, B, C and D, with promotion and relegation between the leagues. The teams have been split up based on their coefficient rankings as of October 2017. League A contains the highest-ranked nations, whilst League D contains the lowest-ranked countries. In Leagues A and B there are 12 teams (each), in League C there are 15 teams, and in League D there are 16 teams.

The teams within the Leagues are then split into four groups; hence, each league contains 4 groups. In the case of Leagues A and B, each group contains 3 teams. In League C, one group contains 3 teams whilst the other 3 groups contain 4 teams. In League D, each group contains 4 teams. The teams within each group play each other on a home-and-away basis.

How are the teams split up?

League A: Germany, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, England, Switzerland, Iceland, Poland, Croatia, Netherlands

League B: Austria, Wales, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Ukraine, Republic of Ireland, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Turkey

League C: Hungary, Romania, Scotland, Slovenia, Greece, Serbia, Albania, Norway, Montenegro, Israel, Bulgaria, Finland, Cyprus, Estonia, Lithuania

League D: Azerbaijan, FYR Macedonia, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, Latvia, Faroe Islands, Luxembourg, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Liechtenstein, Malta, Andorra, Kosovo, San Marino, Gibraltar
What are the rewards for winning your games?

The four group winners in League A advance to a semi-final stage, with a single-leg semi-final and single-leg final taking place (as well as a third place play-off), with the winner being crowned as the Nations League champion. The four teams who finish bottom of their group in League A are demoted to League B.

The four group winners in League B are promoted to League A, whilst the four teams who finish bottom of their group in League B are relegated to League C.

The four group winners in League C are promoted to League B. Since League C contains one group with 3 teams and 3 groups with 4 teams, the teams who finish bottom in the groups containing four teams are relegated to League D, whilst the lowest ranked third-placed team is also relegated. As one group contains only 3 teams rather than 4, for those third-placed teams in the groups of 4, their results against the last-placed team of the group are discarded.

The four group winners in League D are promoted to League C, whilst of course there’s no relegation from the League D since it is the lowest league.

Seeding for UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying is based on the overall UEFA Nations League rankings, which is calculated based on position in the group then points, goal difference, goals scored, away goals scored, wins, away wins, disciplinary points, coefficient ranking (of course teams from League A will be ranked first, then teams from League B, and so on). For UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying, the teams will be split into ten groups – 5 of them containing 5 teams, with the other 5 containing 6 teams. The four group winners in League A are guaranteed to be in the groups containing 5 teams.

How is the Nations League linked to UEFA Euro 2020?

Now this is where it gets somewhat complex. In previous years, play-offs for European Championships were based on the qualifiers, however, now these will be based on the UEFA Nations League. In the qualifiers, teams who finish first and second in their groups qualify directly for Euro 2020, with 20 teams in total qualifying through this process.

However, 24 teams take part in Euro 2020, right? So how do the other 4 teams who qualify get determined?

There will be 4 paths to determine the remaining 4 qualifiers – paths A, B, C and D. All these paths contain the UEFA Nations League group winners (16 in total). Path A will contain the four group winners from League A, and path B will contain the four League B group winners, with the same thing for paths C and D.

If any of the group winners would have qualified through the qualifiers already, they are replaced by the next best-ranked team in the League not yet qualified for Euro 2020, and in the event that a particular League does not have four teams to compete (i.e. less than 4 teams from that particular League would have qualified for Euro 2020), the remaining slots are allocated to teams from another league, with Nations League ranking being taken into consideration. In each path, there shall be two single-leg semi-finals, where the best-ranked team in the path plays against the worst-ranked team, and the second-ranked team plays against the third-ranked team, with the winners advancing to a single-leg final, with the winner in each path qualifying for Euro 2020. As a result, at least one team from each of the four Leagues will qualify for UEFA Euro 2020.

Matchday 1 Results

League A

Thursday 6th September – Germany 0-0 France (Group 1)

Friday 7th September – Italy 1-1 Poland (Group 3)

Saturday 8th September

Switzerland 6-0 Iceland (Group 2)

England 1-2 Spain (Group 4)

League B

Thursday 6th September

Czech Republic 1-2 Ukraine (Group 1)

Wales 4-1 Republic of Ireland (Group 4)

Friday 7th September – Turkey 1-2 Russia (Group 2)

Saturday 8th September – Northern Ireland 1-2 Bosnia & Herzegovina (Group 3)

League C

Thursday 6th September

Slovenia 1-2 Bulgaria, Norway 2-0 Cyprus (Both from Group 3)

Friday 7th September

Albania 1-0 Israel (Group 3)

Lithuania 0-1 Serbia, Romania 0-0 Montenegro (Both from Group 4)

Saturday 8th September

Finland 1-0 Hungary, Estonia 0-1 Greece (Both from Group 2)

League D

Thursday 6th September

Kazakhstan 0-2 Georgia, Latvia 0-0 Andorra (Both from Group 1)

Armenia 2-1 Liechtenstein, Gibraltar 0-2 Macedonia (Both from Group 4)

Friday 7th September

Azerbaijan 0-0 Kosovo, Faroe Islands 3-1 Malta (Both from Group 3)

Saturday 8th September

Belarus 5-0 San Marino, Luxembourg 4-0 Moldova (Both from Group 2)

Written by: Andrew Zarb from ZarbTimes

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