The Start of the UEFA Nations League
UEFA's newest European tournament for countries made its entrance in the 2018/19 season. Designed for many reasons, including breathing life into the international football calendar in Europe, the tournament has been labelled a success in its early years.
Outside of qualification for the World Cup and European Championships the European football calendar was full of friendlies that were becoming less and less interesting to the general public. With no jeopardy and unlimited substitutions, crowds and television audiences were dwindling.
UEFA moved to create the Nations League. With a route to qualification for the major tournaments, an element of competition returned for national teams.
For that first tournament, teams were placed in one of four groups depending on their UEFA National Team Coefficient. Smaller groups were then formed of teams from the larger group on a seedings system. The idea was that national teams would be playing teams close to their ranking. For example the number one seeded team would not play a team any lower than 12th seed to encourage competitive matches.
The best four teams are promoted to the semi-finals of the Nations League and Teams in Groups B, C and D can aim for promotion.
The seedings for qualification for major tournaments are now affected by Nations League results and successful Nations League teams are likely to play less games in qualifying tournaments.
The 2018/19 UEFA Nations League
The 2018/19 UEFA Nations League was won by Portugal who defeated the Netherlands 1-0 in the very first Nations League Final. Portugal had triumphed over Switzerland in the semi-final and had topped a their group that had included Italy and Poland. Their 3-2 win in Poland in the group stages was one of the best games in the 2018/19 edition.
The Netherlands had beaten England in the semi-final and had progressed from a group that had included Germany and France.
In Group B Ukraine, Sweden, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Denmark topped their sub-groups and were promoted.
In Group C Scotland, Israel, Finland, Hungary, Norway, Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania all finished in the top two spots in their sub-groups and achieved promotion.
In Group D Georgia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Luxembourg, Moldova, Kosovo, Azerbaijan, Macedonia, Armenia and Moldova achieved promotion.
The 2020/21 UEFA Nations League
The format of the UEFA Nations League changed again for the 2020/21 edition, the second time the tournament had been held. This time Groups A to C would include 16 teams with Group D now only including seven teams. Promotion from the 2018/19 season was honoured but relegation was jettisoned and those nations who were expecting to drop earned a reprieve.
This time France won the tournament, defeating Spain in the final 2-1. Italy went on to beat Belgium in the third/fourth place play-off. The final four nations left in the competition were entirely different to the four in the previous tournament. This time winners France had progressed from the same group as previous champions Portugal.
In this tournament relegation was included and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Sweden and Ukraine dropped from Group A.
Talking their place from Group B will be Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Wales. Relegated from Group B were Northern Ireland, Slovakia, Turkey and Bulgaria.
In Group C Montenegro, Armenia, Slovenia and Albania earned promotion while Cyprus, Estonia, Moldova and Kazakhstan were relegated.
In Group D The Faroe Islands and Gibraltar were promoted. Andorra and San Marino are still without a win after two editions of the Nations League.
2022/23 UEFA Nations League Tickets
The Nations League kicks off again with the Group Stages in June 2022 and this edition has thrown up some mouthwatering Nations League fixtures for the home nations.
England are paired with Italy, Germany and Hungary while Scotland and Republic of Ireland have been drawn together in Group B1. Wales who have moved up to League A are in with Belgium the Netherlands and Poland and Northern Ireland will have Greece, Kosovo, Cyprus or Estonia.
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