The idea behind the UEFA Nations League started back in 2011 to address the desire of the member associations to have meaningful matches and adequate competition for national teams. The friendly matches simply did not do this. UEFA President at the time Michel Platini wanted to “improve the quality and standing of national team football” and thus the idea was born.
Aleksander Čeferin was elected as UEFA’s seventh president at the 12th Extraordinary UEFA Congress in Athens in September 2016. He is now charged with implementing this idea and moving it forward.
In order to understand something more about the new creature of the Union of European Football Association, the UEFA Nations League, we have to analyze the format of this competition.
What is the UEFA Nations League?
According to UEFA the competition is structured as follows:
- The 55 participating teams are split into four leagues, A–B–C–D, according to their strength
- League A will include the top-ranked teams, League D the lowest-ranked sides
- Leagues A and B will consist of four groups of three teams
- League C will comprise one group of three teams and three groups of four sides
- League D will be formed by four groups of four teams
- In the first edition of the competition, the participating sides will be classified according to the UEFA national team coefficient rankings (ranking as per 15 November 2017, i.e. conclusion of 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers)
- In each league, four group winners are promoted (or play in the Final Four, see below) and four teams are relegated for the next competition to be played in 2020
- The overall UEFA Nations League rankings will determine the composition of the draw pots for the subsequent European Qualifiers
- In addition, the UEFA Nations League will provide teams with another chance to qualify for the UEFA EURO final tournament, with four sides qualifying through play-off matches which take place in March 2020 (see below).
UEFA.com also mentioned that this competition will be played in September, October and November 2018 while the Final Four competition for the teams that win the four groups within the top division are scheduled for June 2019.
Knockout matches will be played by the four group winners of UEFA Nations League in June 2019 to become the UEFA Nations League champion. The play-off matches will be staged in March 2020. The Union of European Football Association believes that the UEFA Nations League creates more meaningful and competitive matches for teams and a dedicated calendar and structure for national team football.
Although Čeferin’s decision to organize the UEFA Nations League seems to be very interesting, his decision left some very skeptical. Those that are criticizing the idea of the new president of UEFA are worried that friendly matches among national teams are going to disappear.
Are friendly matches really disappearing?
Undoubtedly, the space to organize friendly matches is going to decrease even if UEFA provided a very clear answer to this question as well: “There will still be space in the calendar for friendlies, especially for top teams who may want to face opposition from outside Europe as they will be in groups of three teams”.
Although UEFA pointed out that the implementation of the UEFA Nations League is not to increase revenues, Aleksander Čeferin’s project will definitely boost the economy of football. “The competition will have the same centralized media rights as have recently been introduced for all European Qualifiers so associations will have even more stability in their income” UEFA stated.
Aleksander Čeferin’s desire to organize the UEFA Nations League is ongoing. UEFA is ready to improve the quality and standing of national team football.