In Brief

Uefa Nations League explained: how does it work?

England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland feature in Uefa’s new tournament

The eagerly awaited Nations League has kicked off around Europe.

All of the home nations - England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - feature in Uefa’s new international football tournament. England play Spain and Croatia in group four of League A, which features the top 12 seeded teams in the competition.

Northern Ireland play Austria and Bosnia and Herzegovina in League B group three, while Wales and the Republic of Ireland have been drawn with Denmark in League B group four. Scotland are in League C group one along with Albania and Israel.

Explained: the Uefa Nations League

Uefa Nations League full draw 

League A

  • Group one: Germany, France, Netherlands 
  • Group two: Belgium, Switzerland, Iceland 
  • Group three: Portugal, Italy, Poland 
  • Group four: Spain, England, Croatia

League B

  • Group one: Slovakia, Ukraine, Czech Republic 
  • Group two: Russia, Sweden, Turkey 
  • Group three: Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Ireland 
  • Group four: Wales, Republic of Ireland, Denmark

League C

  • Group one: Scotland, Albania, Israel 
  • Group two: Hungary, Greece, Finland, Estonia 
  • Group three: Slovenia, Norway, Bulgaria, Cyprus 
  • Group four: Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, Lithuania

League D

  • Group one: Georgia, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Andorra 
  • Group two: Belarus, Luxembourg, Moldova, San Marino 
  • Group three: Azerbaijan, Faroe Islands, Malta, Kosovo 
  • Group four: FYR Macedonia, Armenia, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar

How does the Uefa Nations League work?

The 55 countries that make up Uefa were split into four leagues according to their rankings. Each league is split into four groups of three or four teams, who will play each other home and away. The winners of each group will be promoted to the league above, while the losers will be relegated. The four group-winning teams in the divisions will progress to a final round to determine a champion. The Uefa Nations League finals will be held in Portugal from 5-9 June 2019. 

Why has it been launched?

“The idea behind the Uefa Nations League is to reduce the number of meaningless friendlies and try to ensure nations face opponents of similar quality,” says the Daily Mirror

Uefa hopes that matches will be “more competitive, leading to more interest from supporters who have become bored with international friendlies”, adds The Sun, which also notes that the competition will have a wider significance. 

“How teams perform in the Nations League will be used to determine which pots they will be placed in for future European qualifiers for the Euros and the World Cup,” the newspaper explains.

When does the Uefa Nations League begin?

The group games will take place during international breaks in September, October and November this year. The four League A group winners will then play off in the finals in Portugal from June 5-9 2019.

The next edition of the competition, with relegation and promotions taken into account, will begin in 2020. That means that each summer without a World Cup or European Championship, there will be a Uefa Nations League final.

Uefa Nations League calendar

  • Match day 1: 6–8 September 2018 
  • Match day 2: 9–11 September 2018 
  • Match day 3: 11–13 October 2018 
  • Match day 4: 14–16 October 2018 
  • Match day 5: 15–17 November 2018 
  • Match day 6: 18–20 November 2018 
  • Finals draw: 3 December 2018 
  • Finals: 5–9 June 2019 (Portugal)
  • Uefa Euro 2020 play-off draw: 22 November 2019 
  • Uefa Euro 2020 play-offs: 26–31 March 2020

Uefa says teams in three-sided groups will play on four of the six match days.

What about the major tournaments?

One upshot of the competition is that it will make qualification for the European Championships “more streamlined”, says Uefa. There will be a standard qualifying competition, with two teams going through from each group. But the Nations League rankings will then be used to decide which teams qualify for the play-offs to decide the final four spots at Euro 2020.

What about friendlies?

“The number of friendlies played by European nations will be greatly reduced, but they will not disappear completely,” says the Daily Mirror. “There will still be time for nations to play friendlies, particularly in the build-up to World Cups and European Championships.” 

Will the Uefa Nations League be on TV?

The Guardian reports that Nations League games will still be counted as non-competitive. “Under the current deal, all of England’s matches are screened on ITV, but from 2018 the team’s friendly matches – which will be a part of a new Uefa Nations League – will only be available on Sky Sports.” 


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