Clubs have often expressed frustration when their main players have to leave for international friendlies, which they term ‘meaningless’, returning injured on many an occasion. UEFA has come up with the idea of the Nations League, saying it will provide top nations with more competitive matches against each other as compared to friendlies.
Euro qualification chance
All 55 UEFA member nations will feature in the league, competing against teams of comparable strength. The competition will also provide a chance to qualify for the European Championships, which remains a separate tournament.
How it works:
The Nations League is divided into four divisions, based on the UEFA rankings. Europe’s strongest teams are therefore in the top division, known as League A, and the weakest in League D. Each division is itself divided into four groups. League A consists of 12 teams, split into four groups of three. The teams play twice against every other team in their group, home and away, between September and November. The winners of each group qualify for the Nations League Finals, consisting of two semi-finals, a third place match and a final, which will be played in a tournament slated for June 2019.
The bottom teams in each group will be relegated to League B. League B also consists of 12 teams and will operate a similar system to League A. The four group winners will be promoted to League A and the bottom team in each group relegated to League C.
Leagues C and D will use the same format as the top two leagues but with more teams.
The competition also offers a back door to Euro 2020 with four places up for grabs, one for each league. In each league, the four group winners enter a playoff system, consisting of two semi-finals and a final. The ultimate winner will qualify for Euro 2020.
Group One: Germany, France, Netherlands
Group Two: Belgium, Switzerland, Iceland
Group Three: Portugal, Italy, Poland
Group Four: Spain, England, Croatia
Group One: Slovakia, Czech Republic, Ukraine
Group Two: Russia, Sweden, Turkey
Group Three: Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Ireland
Group Four: Wales, Ireland, Denmark
Group One: Scotland, Albania, Israel
Group Two: Hungary, Greece, Finland, Estonia
Group Three: Slovenia, Norway, Bulgaria, Cyprus
Group Four: Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, Lithuania
Group One: Georgia, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Andorra
Group Two: Belarus, Luxembourg, Moldova, San Marino
Group Three: Azerbaijan, Faroe Islands, Malta, Kosovo
Group Four: Macedonia, Armenia, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar
The competition is too complex, adds to an already overcrowded calendar and, because it provides an additional path to major tournaments, makes it too easy for the top teams to qualify.