International football set for its facelift with UEFA Nations League

Recently crowned world champion France takes on Germany in the first game of the inaugural edition of the UEFA Nations League, which gets underway on Thursday.

France's defender Benjamin Mendy, defender Presnel Kimpembe, forward Antoine Griezmann, goalkeeper Alphonse Aerola and midfielder Blaise Matuidi (R) in jovial mood as they arrive for a training session in Clairefontaine-en-Yvelines, on the outskirts of Paris, on Monday.   -  AFP

Recently crowned world champion France takes on Germany in the first game of the inaugural edition of the UEFA Nations League, which gets underway on Thursday.

The tournament, which will take place every two years, is designed to replace “meaningless” friendlies with competitive matches, pitting similarly ranked teams against each other.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, in an official statement, said, "The World Cup showed that there is a huge appetite for national team football. UEFA has always been aware of this, and of the fact that national team football needs more than biennial summer showcases."

READ: Ronaldo out of Portugal squad for Nations League

"Supporters realise that most friendlies fail to deliver competitive and meaningful football. The relationship between club and national team football needed re-balancing. That was the thinking behind the UEFA Nations League."

“In every even year there are World Cup or EURO champions; now in every odd year there will be a UEFA Nations League champion. Football is about competition and now, just like in club football, there will be a national team champion at the close of every season.”

The other big games of matchday sees England taking on Spain, France playing Netherlands and Portugal locking horns with Italy.

How it works

The 55 European teams have been divided into four leagues, with each league having four groups, based on the UEFA’s national association coefficient rankings as on 11 October 2017. The top twelve sides are in League A, the next twelve in League B, fifteen in League C and the bottom sixteen in League D.

In League A, Netherlands is the team with the lowest seeding (12) while Azerbaijan, the best team in League D, is seeded 40.

READ: Sterling withdraws from England squad

In June 2019, the winners of each league will take part in the semifinals. The winners of Groups A and B will face each other, while the winners of C and D will go head-to-head.

The winners of those two games will compete for the Nations League title, with a third place being decided by a play-off between the nations that lost in the semifinals.

All the matches will follow the home and away format, and the teams finishing top of their respective groups in each league will get promoted while those that finish bottom will get relegated.

England head coach Gareth Southgate, who believes that competition is ideal for all the participating nations, said, “The idea of the tournament is to have fewer friendly matches and competitive matches against a high level of opposition. We like the concept of less friendlies and games against high-level teams.”

“I think there's a real buzz about it because the top level teams want competitive games and the teams in the other leagues get a realistic challenge too. If you’re one of the smaller nations there's no point losing heavily, regularly, against better teams so how do you develop? And there's a carrot there for them to qualify for the finals too,” he added.

A route for EURO qualification

The Nations League also offers a second chance to qualify for the upcoming EUROs. In the first edition of this tournament, the top four teams in each League that did not qualify for EURO 2020 will enter a play-off in March 2020, with one place in the EURO 2020 finals on offer.

If all twelve teams in a league have already qualified, the play-off spots go to teams from the league below it.

The regular EURO qualifiers will take place as usual, from March to November 2019, with a draw to be held this coming December. The one change to the EURO qualification format will see four teams qualifying through the Nations League play-offs rather than the traditional third-placed play-offs.

This year, the Nations League matches will take place in September, October and November.


League A

Group A1

Group A2

Group A3

Group A4













League B

Group B1

Group B2

Group B3

Group B4



Northern Ireland






Czech Republic


Bosnia and Herzegovina

Republic of Ireland

League C

Group C1

Group C2

Group C3

Group C4
















League D

Group D1

Group D2

Group D3

Group D4











Faroe Islands



San Marino





Nations League — FULL SCHEDULE

Matchday 1

September 6-8 2018

Matchday 2

September 9-11 2018

Matchday 3

October 11-13 2018

Matchday 4

October 14-16 2018

Matchday 5

November 15-17 2018

Matchday 6

November 18-20 2018

Finals draw

December 2018


June 5-9 2018

EURO 2020 play-offs draw

November 22, 2019

EURO 2020 play-offs

March 26-31, 2019


Matchday 1 schedule

Thursday, 6 September

League A

Group A1 — Germany vs France

League B

Group B1 — Czech Republic vs Ukraine

Group B2 — Wales vs Republic of Ireland

League C

Group C3 — Slovenia vs Bulgaria, Norway vs Cyprus

League D

Group D1 — Kazakhstan vs Georgia, Latvia vs Andorra

Group D4 — Armenia vs Liechtenstein, Gibraltar vs Macedonia


Friday, 7 September

League A

Group A3 — Italy vs Poland

League B

Group B2 — Turkey vs Russia

League C

Group C1 — Albania vs Israel

Group C4 — Lithuania vs Serbia, Romania vs Montenegro

League D

Group D3 — Azerbaijan vs Kosov, Faroe Islands vs Malta


Saturday, 8 September

League A

Group A2 — Switzerland vs Iceland

Group A4 — England vs Spain

League B

Group B3 — Northern Ireland vs Bosnia and Herzegovina

League C

Group C2 —Finland vs Hungary, Estonia vs Greece

League D

Group D2 — Belarus vs San Marino, Luxembourg vs Moldova

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