How it works, format, structure and so on — UEFA Nations League

07 September, 2018, 16:31 | Author: Marlene Myers
  • Gareth Bale has joined up with his Wales team-mates ahead of Thursday's clash with Ireland

With Euro 2020 on the horizon, Southgate will be anxious to maintain momentum and the fact the 26th meeting between England and Spain takes place in UEFA's new-fangled Nations League means the fixture, rather than simply a high-profile friendly, is assured of a competitive edge. It isn't like anything top-level football has seen before, and there are elements that don't feel quite right. "They're still a top team".

The tournament resurfaced in a bid to revamp the level of worldwide football and reduce irrelevant friendlies.

The competition will be held every two years and features all 55 of Europe's national teams, divided into four divisions split into four groups, with games to be played between September and November.

The first ever goal of the new Nations League was a stunner, scored by Giorgi Chakvetadze in distant Astana, as Georgia beat Kazakhstan 2-0 in Group 1 of League D. Joachim Low's side - now without Mesut Ozil - will look to make a real statement of intent against the 2018 winners in Russian Federation. So much, so straightforward.

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The top sides in each of the four groups in League A will advance to a mini final tournament in June next year, with the overall Nations League title at stake before the Euro 2020 qualifiers begin.

The interesting thing about this system is that one of the four minnows from League D that top their groups will then win a spot to represent their League in the March mini-tournament. And this is where it does become really complicated.

The Netherlands are the other team in Group 1 of League A, and Ronald Koeman's team travel to Paris on Sunday, when the French will turn out at home for the first time since their glorious campaign in Russian Federation.

The new tournament is created to replace friendlies with more competitive matches while grouping teams of similar ranking with one another and features four "leagues" within the competition, with room for promotion and relegation between them. It's arguable that an in-form minnow is likely to perform better than an out-of-form mid-ranked side, and the expansion to 24 teams has killed any sense of elite competition from the group stage, anyway. At its heart, the Nations League ensures at least semi-competitive global football that pits teams teams of roughly equivalent ability against each other.

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