When the International break comes round there is usually a lack of excitement from fans. We hear more about the disruption of the league than the actual friendlies themselves. Compared to the Euro's and the World Cup, international friendlies suffer from a deficit of competitiveness. Introducing the UEFA Nations League…

UEFA Nations League – What is it?

The UEFA Nations League is a European men’s football competition between different countries. Created in 2018, it is organized by UEFA. The first edition will take place during the 2018-2019 season. Here’s what you need to know about the League of Nations. This is the new invention of UEFA. A competition that does not add dates to the calendar but will allow giving a little more relief to international years without major competitions. The League of Nations will change the habits of the national teams. But it’s not a revolution. We explain all that to you.

The goal of the project is to replace international friendly matches, which are often of little interest to sponsors, with low oppositions. For big teams, this is the opportunity to play a new trophy while small and medium teams can win a place for the Euro, as well as the chance to attend balanced matches to learn to “win” and to improve. For fans, it’s an opportunity to have a new competition in which they can support their teams. Friendlies will always be played but at a more moderate pace and favouring teams from other continents

Why do this competition?

The primary goal is to give more interest, more relief to years without major international competitions. And above all to bring more adversity to the meetings of the national teams except playoff matches, which of course remain on the program. In short, UEFA, which will inevitably recover some TV rights still a little more interesting with this new event, replaces friendlies sometimes deemed of little interest to replace them with stakes matches. And against teams of the same level.

What is the interest for national teams?

If there is a new title to go, there is especially a carrot able to motivate many teams. Four tickets for Euro 2020 will be distributed via this competition. And it’s not so trivial. Especially for the formations ranked among the last 16 in the rankings of the UEFA coefficient which currently have the insurance to have a direct ticket for the big competition of the continent.

What about the EURO qualifiers?

They do not change in themselves. There will be five groups with five teams and five others with six teams. And the top two in each group will qualify directly for the Euro. The only real change: if they finish in November 2019, they start later, in March 2019. And we no longer qualify for dams via this route. But through this new League of Nations.

What is the format of this League of Nations?

The 55 selections are split into four Leagues according to their UEFA coefficient rankings. The top 12 ranked teams are in League A. The next 12 in League B. And so on. League C, however, has 15 teams and the League D has 16. The four Leagues are then divided into four pools of three or four teams.

This group phase is played in a round-robin match. That’s when it gets a bit complicated. Only League A squads play the title. Thus, the first four of this League qualify for a “Final Four” that will be played in a host country in June 2019. With semifinals and a final. For the rest, we return to a system of promotion and relegation. That is to say, the top four in League B, the top four in league C and the top four in league D are promoted in the League for the next edition. And to make up, the teams that finished last in League A, B and C are relegated.

How can you get one of the Euro 2020 tickets via this competition?

Here too, it’s a little complex. But by scratching your head for two or three minutes, you end up understanding. To put it simply, there is one ticket per league. “Every league has its own way,” says UEFA. The first four of each League (i.e. 16 teams), on the sole condition that they have not already qualified directly thanks to the traditional group matches for the Euro and their 20 qualifying places, will compete in a mini-tournament. With semi-finals in the knockout match and one final. And this for each League. On the other hand, if a country is already qualified for the Euro via the “traditional” qualifiers that will take place after the group stage of the League of Nations, its place of “barrage” will be attributed to the next team in its League.

Is this the end of friendlies?

No. UEFA will continue to reserve windows for friendly matches according to the international calendar. Because the European body wishes to leave the possibility to its national teams to rub the formations of the other continents. But there will be much less. In addition, does this add matches to the international calendar? For now, the answer is “No.” Everything has been planned so as not to upset the clubs, who are sometimes reluctant to let their players go for friendly matches throughout the season.

The trophy:

Even if the competition allows some teams to play in the next European Championships, it gives the opportunity to one of the teams of the League A to win the title of “Nations League” with the trophy. The trophy is directly inspired by the logo of the competition. It is made entirely of sterling silver and features the colours of the competition reflected on the silver surface. The trophy weighs 7.5 kilograms for 71 centimetres.

Official Anthem:

Like the Champions League, the Nations League has its own anthem, which is played at the entrance of players on the field, during ceremonies and on television. This hymn was registered with a philharmonic orchestra and Latin singers, mixing classic style electronics to render more contemporary.

What awaits us?

The eyes will be mainly riveted on the league A which houses Germany, Spain, France and England among others. The draw delivered some “death groups.” France, the world champion will face its predecessor Germany and then the Netherlands. Belgium will have fewer difficulties in Group 2 with Iceland and Switzerland. Group 3 also promises some great matches as it consists of Italy, Portugal and Poland. England will feel a little on the hot seat in the same group as Spain and Croatia in Group 4.

UEFA Nations League Groups

Teams in their divisions (photo from UEFA.COM)