UEFA Nations League: The most exciting competition in Europe
UEFA Nations League: Everything You Need to Know
If you are a fan of international football, you have probably heard of the UEFA Nations League. But what exactly is this competition and how does it work? In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about the UEFA Nations League, from its origins and objectives to its format and structure, from its results and standings to its future prospects. We will also answer some frequently asked questions about this innovative and exciting tournament.
What is the UEFA Nations League?
The UEFA Nations League is a biennial international football competition contested by the senior men's national teams of the member associations of UEFA, the sport's European governing body. The first tournament began in September 2018. The four group winners from League A qualified for the finals, played in Portugal in June 2019.
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The origins and objectives of the competition
The idea of creating a third full national-team international tournament for UEFA members, in addition to the FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championship, was first proposed in October 2013 by Yngve Hallén, the president of the Norwegian Football Association. The main goals of the proposal were to:
Replace the international friendly matches previously played on the FIFA International Match Calendar with more competitive and meaningful games.
Provide more opportunities for lower-ranked nations to play against teams of similar level and improve their ranking and development.
Increase the interest and revenue of international football for both fans and broadcasters.
The concept of the UEFA Nations League was unanimously adopted by the 54 UEFA member associations at the XXXVIII Ordinary UEFA Congress in Astana on 27 March 2014.
The format and structure of the competition
According to the approved format, the 54 (now 55) UEFA national teams are divided into four divisions (called "Leagues"):
16 teams in League A, comprising the highest-ranked teams in Europe.
16 teams in League B, comprising the next highest-ranked teams in Europe.
16 teams in League C, comprising the next lowest-ranked teams in Europe.
7 teams in League D, comprising the lowest-ranked teams in Europe.
In each league, four groups are formed (with three or four teams) and teams play each other both home and away. The group winners in Leagues B, C and D are promoted to the next higher league, while the group last-placed teams in Leagues A, B and C are relegated to the next lower league. The group winners in League A qualify for the finals, where they compete for the trophy in a single-elimination tournament consisting of two semi-finals, a third-place play-off and a final.
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The benefits and drawbacks of the competition
The UEFA Nations League has been praised for several reasons, such as:
Increasing the competitiveness and attractiveness of international football, as every game counts for something.
Reducing the number of meaningless friendlies that often lack intensity and excitement.
Giving more chances for smaller nations to play against similar opponents and achieve better results.
Creating more Creating more drama and suspense, as the fate of the teams can be decided in the last games.
Offering an alternative route to qualify for the FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro, as the best-ranked teams in each league that have not already qualified will enter a play-off system.
However, the UEFA Nations League has also faced some criticism, such as:
Adding more complexity and confusion to the international calendar, as some fans and players struggle to understand the rules and implications of the competition.
Increasing the workload and fatigue of the players, as they have to play more competitive games in a shorter period of time.
Reducing the opportunities for bigger nations to play against each other, as they are mostly confined to their own league.
Creating more inequality and imbalance, as the lower-ranked teams have less chance to improve their ranking and face stronger opponents.
How does the UEFA Nations League work?
Now that we have explained what the UEFA Nations League is and why it was created, let us look at how it works in practice. In this section, we will describe the main features and mechanisms of the competition, such as the leagues and groups, the promotion and relegation system, and the finals and the third-place play-off.
The leagues and groups
The leagues and groups of the UEFA Nations League are based on the UEFA national team coefficients ranking, which is calculated using a formula that takes into account the results of each team in the previous World Cup and Euro qualifiers and finals, as well as in the previous Nations League season. The ranking is updated after each international window. The first ranking was used to allocate the teams to their respective leagues for the 2018-19 season. The second ranking was used to allocate the teams to their respective groups within each league for the 2020-21 season. The third ranking will be used to allocate the teams to their respective leagues for the 2022-23 season.
The following table shows the composition of each league and group for the 2020-21 season:
League ALeague BLeague CLeague D
Group 1: Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Bosnia and HerzegovinaGroup 1: Austria, Norway, Northern Ireland, RomaniaGroup 1: Montenegro, Luxembourg, Azerbaijan, CyprusGroup 1: Malta, Andorra, Latvia, Faroe Islands
Group 2: England, Belgium, Denmark, IcelandGroup 2: Czech Republic, Scotland, Slovakia, IsraelGroup 2: Armenia, Georgia, North Macedonia, EstoniaGroup 2: Gibraltar, Liechtenstein, San Marino
Group 3: Portugal (title holders), France (world champions), Croatia (world runners-up), SwedenGroup 3: Russia (host nation), Serbia (host nation), Turkey (host nation), Hungary (host nation)Group 3: Greece (host nation), Kosovo (host nation), Slovenia (host nation), Moldova (host nation)
Group 4: Switzerland (third place), Spain (fourth place), Germany (relegated from League A), Ukraine (promoted from League B)Group 4: Wales (promoted from League B), Finland (promoted from League C), Ireland (relegated from League A), Bulgaria (relegated from League A)Group 4: Albania (relegated from League B), Belarus (relegated from League B), Lithuania (promoted from League D), Kazakhstan (promoted from League D)
The promotion and relegation