A Beginners Guide to… UEFA Nations League

This is a weekly feature where we will be taking you through the basics of different aspects of sport that you may not already know. The aim is to expand peoples knowledge so not only will other posts on here make more sense, but you can show off your new found knowledge to your friends. If you think we miss anything or have a topic you want us to cover Comment, Tweet or Email us and we will get to work on it. 

Welcome to this week’s Beginners Guide, we will cover the UEFA Nations League which is due to start this weekend.

Oh, you’re back again… what are you teaching me this week?

Don’t you pay attention? The UEFA Nations league which is due to start this weekend.

Okay, I’ve never heard of it. Who plays in that? Is it some sort of Club Super League?

Don’t worry, as it stands we still don’t have a breakaway European Super League. It’s for national sides every UEFA nation takes part in it.

That sounds huge, they aren’t all in one big league surely?

No! That would be daft even by the standards of UEFA. The teams are split into for leagues A, B, C and D. Within these leagues, there are 4 groups 1, 2, 3, and 4. Leagues A and B have 4 groups of 3, League C has 1 group of 3 and 3 groups of 4 teams whereas League D has 4 groups of 4 teams.

Just what football needs more pointless internationals making players tired with all the friendly games.

Wrong again! UEFA has bought the Nations League in to reduce the number of friendly matches and give them something for competitive to play for.

Oh so this a real tournament? What are they playing for?

The winners of League A are declared the Nations League Winners. In the lower leagues, teams are playing for promotion and relegation as well. Each league also has qualifying spots open for the next European Championships.

I have three questions. One how do they decided the winners? T…

Let’s go through this one at a time, I don’t want to confuse you. Quite simply the winners of the 4 groups go into Semi-Finals the winners play each other in a final and they are declared Nations League Champions.

Rude… I am not easily confused… Sorry I got distracted… What are we doing?

You were about to ask your second question…

Ahh right yeah… sorry. How does promotion and relegation work? 

Again this is pretty simple. The 4 bottom teams in the League A, B, C are relegated to the League below. The 4 top teams in Leagues B, C and D are promoted up to their League above.

Oh, this is pretty simple. I think I was over thinking. How does the European Championship qualification work then? 

See, this is where it gets a little more confusing. Ready? Good. So, in France 2016 we had 24 teams in the Euros for the first time. It will be the same in 2020, but only 20 of these teams will come from the usual qualification process. 8 Group Winners, 8 group Runners-up and 4 playoff teams. This leaves 4 spaces. They will have playoffs in the same way League A does to decide the winner of the whole thing. The winners of these 4 playoffs will take a place in the Euros.

What is the group winners have already qualified?

If the group winners have already qualified, then the next highest team in their league will get their spot. If the league can’t put four teams into the playoffs because they have already qualified then they will use the tournament rankings to decide. The highest ranked team not in the Euros will take their place even if they are from a different league.

What are the Leagues and Groups then?

That seems like the logical thing to cover next.

League A

Group 1 – Germany, France, Netherlands

Group 2 – Belgium, Switzerland, Iceland

Group 3 – Portugal, Italy, Poland

Group 4 – Spain, England, Croatia

League B

Group 1 – Slovakia, Ukraine, Czech Republic

Group 2 – Russia, Sweden, Turkey

Group 3 – Austria, Bosnia, Northern Ireland

Group 4 – Wales, Republic of Ireland, Denmark

League C

Group 1 – Scotland, Albania, Isreal

Group 2 – Hungary, Greece, Estonia, Finland

Group 3 – Slovenia, Norway, Bulgaria, Cyprus

Group 4 – Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, Lithuania

League D

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

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Are you telling me that Andorra could be in the Euros?

In theory yes! First no offence to anyone from Andorra who reads this. I for one welcome you to Europe’s top footballing table. Long overdue if you ask me. But the minnows being able to qualify is one of the most contentious points about this new tournament. UEFA says it gives countries who would normally never get to play at that level the chance. Critics say that they should have to earn their chance to qualify like everyone else does. But it does have the potential to help the game grow.

Why has UEFA bought this in?

Well, like most things the bottom line is what matters. It is a good chance for UEFA to make money. Unlike most England games the rights were sold in a big money deal to SKY. If UEFA talks about it, they say that it gives the smaller nations a chance to compete and potentially win trophies, something that they wouldn’t normally get chance to do.

Let me check. It’s a new nations based competition that will replace friendly matches, provide competition between countries whilst making money for UEFA. Plus Gibraltar could get in? Sounds like a winner.

Wait… why are you anti-Andorra qualification but pro-Gibraltar?

Gibraltar is part of the UK. Technically a win for them would be a win for the home nations. 

Hmmmm I guess I can see your point but that’s enough from you for a week. Thanks for reading this week’s Beginners Guide. We will be back next week with another. As usual, Comment, Tweet or Email us your questions or if you have anything you want in a Beginners Guide.

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