What You Need to Know About the UEFA Nations League

The UEFA Nations League is an exciting new football tournament that pits similarly ranked national teams in Europe against each other.  It eliminates those boring international friendlies that seemed to diminish in stature each year. 

A Big No No to International Football Friendlies 

As football fans as far afield as Kenya, Kuwait, Bali and Nepal will attest, the friendlies took the fizz out of European football.  Players were increasingly unenthusiastic, the standard of football was often appalling and spectator numbers - live and on TV - took as serious dive.  The end result?  Less money for FIFA, UEFA and all the other associations... plus billions of dissatisfied fans.

The Battle of the Giants Now On

UEFA Nations Football League Teams
Now, 55 teams have been divided into four leagues based on rankings.  What this means is the European football giants like England, Spain, Croatia, Netherlands and Germany will have to go head-to-head - home and away - in order to book a spot in the UEFA Nations League finals.
This story is not only about the big fish of football.  Less proficient teams don’t have to have their hearts ripped out of their collective chests time and time again.  Minnows now face minnows on a more even playing field, something that is not only great for the sport but vital in building a winning mentality.

The Structure of the UEFA Nations League 

The UEFA Nations League is actually a combination of four individual leagues, each of which is divided into smaller groups consisting of three or four teams.  The teams in each group play each other home and away. National teams at the top the group table at the end of the tournament are promoted to the league above. The four teams at the bottom of each group are relegated down.
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The only exception is of course League A, the temporary home of the UEFA big guns.  The winners of those four groups automatically earn a slot in the UEFA Nations League finals scheduled for July 2019.  Relegation happens as usual to the teams that finish at the bottom of each group.
However, and this is where it becomes interesting, the top four teams that do not qualify for UEFA Euro 2020 have one more shot at the prize.  They will fight it out for one remaining finals slot in the March 2019 playoffs.

The Impact of the League on Qualifying for UEFA Euro

The League has actually simplified the process of qualifying for UEFA Euro 2020.   The top two teams in 10 groups qualify automatically.  Four further slots are awarded to the winners of the European qualifiers play-offs, which are contested by the 16 group winners of the UEFA Nations League.

How do the UEFA Nations League Rankings Work?

UEFA Nations Football League Trophy
Teams are allocated to leagues A, B, C and D according to rankings.  The overall ranking is calculated according to the team’s position in the group, points, goal difference, goals scored, away goals scored, wins, away wins, disciplinary points and coefficient ranking.

What’s Happened in the UEFA Nations League So Far?

The League Phase of the 2018 tournament has already been decided.  France, Belgium, Portugal and Spain topped their groups in League A and have qualified for the Nations League finals to be contested in July 2019. Germany, Iceland, Poland and Croatia have been relegated to League B for 2020.
Other notable moves include promotion to league A for Russia, Wales, Ukraine and Bosnia Herzegovina, while the top scorers in the tournament, with four goals apiece, are Romela Lukaku, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Antoine Griezmann.

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Published: 10/30/2018