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UEFA Nations League: Why Is It A Good And Bad Idea?
- Updated: November 16, 2018
The international football break is on, and fans across the world will not miss club football courtesy of the UEFA Nations League. This new league is a tactical plan by the UEFA to give small nations a shot at playing against bigger and better teams, in a bid to improve their infrastructure and system.
No longer shall we see qualification matches featuring powerhouses like Belgium or France massacring San Marino or Gibraltar. Instead, we will see Belgium and France play teams equal to their caliber. The idea is to create a more regular schedule of competitive games in which teams can improve and develop ahead of European Championships and World Cups. Also, the UEFA Nations League will be the decider on which among the 55 nations play the EURO 2020.
In the first year, four leagues have been established on team strength according to FIFA rankings. League A contains the 12 highest ranked teams like Germany, France, Spain, and League B features the next 12 namely Wales, Russia. League C is comprised of the following 15 teams with the likes of Serbia and Scotland, and League D is made up by the final 16. Within those leagues, the teams will then be split up further into groups.
Qualification & Relegation
Now, once the tournament starts, winners of each of the four groups will advance to the ‘final four’ of the competition. The final four will consist of two one-leg semi-finals and then the grand finale, all three matches hosted in a neutral nation. The winner of the final is, of course, the first UEFA Nations League champion. But for everyone else, there is promotion and relegation to worry about.
The teams that finish bottom of their group in Leagues A, B and C are relegated and replaced by the teams that finish top of the groups in the League below. That brings us to the four ‘second-chance’ places that will be awarded to four teams to qualify for the Euros. One qualification spot will be awarded to each League, giving one of the lowest-ranked teams on the continent a rare chance to go to a European Championship through League D.
UEFA Nations League might be a revolutionary concept which will make European football rankings more dynamic in nature, but in its inaugural season, it has some serious problems.
Firstly, the group of ‘Special Four’ i.e., the teams that have been given a second chance gets really messy if some of the group winners in each League have already qualified for the Euros through the normal qualification process – which they inevitably will have it will the next best team in the league to qualify. Now if two teams are tied, there is no fixed conclusion on which team would be selected.
Secondly, If there are not enough unqualified teams in a League which is very likely in League A – to fill the four-team play-off mini-tournament, teams from the below League will slide up to complete the field. These teams haven’t even qualified for their own League’s playoffs, and yet they are playing in a League higher.
Furthermore, the UEFA Nations League was created with the idea that it would give the lower-tier nations a shot at qualifying for Euro 2020. But when a team in League D gets promoted into League C, it makes things inevitably harder and defeats the whole point of the system.