UEFA’s latest brainchild to make international football slightly more exciting is called the UEFA Nations League. It essentially replaces meaningless friendlies in the UEFA region with slightly (ever so slightly) more meaningful ones, pitting teams of similar quality against each other in a pseudo-(mini)-league format with promotion, relegation, and even possible qualification for Euro 2020.
I can’t really be bothered to understand it beyond that, so here’s a brief explained from UEFA in video format.
What is important is that the League doesn’t add any more matches than we have currently, though it also doesn’t reorganize the FIFA calendar, so the club season will still be disrupted repeatedly with international breaks in September, October, November, and March.
The Nations League will be played during the first three breaks, with those six matches then used to rank teams within their respective “playing groups”. Bottom placed teams are relegated, first placed teams are promoted or, if already in the top league, go into a playoff to determine the ultimate winner later in 2019, by which time the “real” (but shortened) qualification for Euro 2020 will have begun.
None of this changes the fact that international games add to the congestion of the club season, are a literal pain in the Arsenal when players pick up injuries, and still don’t produce high quality football since the players don’t really get to play and train together for any significant amount of time. All-star games are fun, but only once a year, not twice a month.
But I digress.
Some people like the Nations League and it adds a modicum of intrigue to what otherwise would be devoid of almost any meaning.
The draw was conducted today at UEFA headquarters. England were one of 12 teams in League A; they will play their international games in the first three breaks of next season against: Croatia and Spain. But that’s only two teams, you say! And you’re right. England (and all other teams in three-team groups) will only play on four of the six total matchdays (each break has two matchdays). It’s unclear if teams will schedule normal friendlies on the other dates or just leave them open.
The full draw:
Group 1 is loaded with Germany and France and the Netherlands; Belgium get a nice draw in Group 2 with Switzerland and Iceland; Italy go into Group 3 with Portugal and Poland is what is probably the weakest trio; and lastly England and Spain together in Group 4 with Croatia.
Nice draw there to put both Slovakia and Czech Republic together, as well as Ireland and Wales.
Hungary are the top ranked team in League C at the moment; that’s all you need to about the quality of games coming up here.
Minnows versus minnows, if that’s your thing.
In case you don’t know all the flags by heart, here is a text version:
Group 1: Germany, France, Netherlands
Group 2: Belgium, Switzerland, Iceland
Group 3: Portugal, Italy, Poland
Group 4: Spain, England, Croatia
Group 1: Slovakia, Ukraine, Czech Republic
Group 2: Russia, Sweden, Turkey
Group 3: Austria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Northern Ireland
Group 4: Wales, Ireland, Denmark
Group 1: Scotland, Albania, Israel
Group 2: Hungary, Greece, Finland, Estonia
Group 3: Slovenia, Norway, Bulgaria, Cyprus
Group 4: Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, Lithuania
Group 1: Georgia, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Andorra
Group 2: Belarus, Luxembourg, Moldova, San Marino
Group 3: Azerbaijan, Faroe Islands, Malta, Kosovo
Group 4: Macedonia, Armenia, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar