Black and White

Good day to you. As the number one fan of the UEFA Nations League, I couldn’t help myself in bringing you a roundup of what has happened now the group stages are over. Group stages you say? Yes, there’s more to come. Let me explain.

Who won then?

If you followed our original preview you’ll already know this, but if not…

There were four groups of three in League A with the winners of each group advancing to the final four next summer. They will compete in two semi finals with the winners facing off in the final…and the losers in the 3rd place playoff. That all happens in Portugal, who are the host nation.

Alongside the home nation will be Netherlands, Switzerland and England. We don’t know who will play who yet as they’re doing a draw ceremony in Ireland in early December. How formal.

You don’t get anything for winning other than the glory/money. There’s no automatic qualification place up for grabs for Euro 2020.

What about the other leagues?

There are four tiers to the Nations League with all the winners of the groups in League B being promoted to League A. That means they’ll have the chance to win the Nations League in 2020/21. Those teams are Ukraine, Sweden, Bosnia and Denmark.

They replace the teams who finished both of each of the groups in League A – so it’s bad luck for Germany, Iceland, Poland and Croatia. They’ll play in League B in 20/21 which means they can’t win it. Devastating.

Does any of this affect Euro 2020?

YES. In many ways. All the group’s winners are guaranteed at least a playoff place should they not finish in the top two of their Euro 2020 qualifying group. Whilst you’d expect the League A teams to breeze qualifying, these spots could be vital for other nations. Scotland, for example, are guaranteed at least a playoff place against other League C teams which may be easier than finishing in the top two of their qualifying group, though they haven’t been drawn yet. It does mean though that one of Georgia, Macedonia, Kosovo or Belarus are guaranteed to be at Euro 2020. I’ll let you decide if you are happy with that or not.

The real kicker though is that all of these Nations League games have been adjusting coefficients based on the results. Whilst that is not exactly sexy, it does mean Germany are in the second pot of seeds which means they will have to go up against one of the top seeds…like England. Or you know, any of 9 others. The four Nations League finalists are guaranteed to be in a group of 5 for scheduling purposes as next June they will be busy trying to be champions whilst the other teams can crack on.

What’s a good/bad group for our lads?

England could get Germany, Serbia, Romania and Macedonia which wouldn’t be ideal but you’d still expect qualification. On the flip side they could get Czech Republic, Israel, Lithuania and Gibraltar.

Wales are the only home nation in Pot 2 so they will most likely want Poland out of the top seeds but are perhaps more looking at who would be a good draw from the other pots. Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and Scotland are all in pot 3 with the already mentioned Serbia a potential threat. Turkey wouldn’t be very easy either whilst Slovakia are statistically the top side in that group. Romania and Greece are the dangerous floaters in pot 4 whilst those group League D winners lurk in pot 5. Pot 6 shouldn’t be a worry.

Has the Nations League been a success?

I’ve loved it, but you already knew that. The fact that all groups were competitive and three of the groups had a new team take top spot in the final match suggests it did exactly what it was designed to do – offer competitive football and largely replaced a glut of friendlies. The risk and reward of qualification seeding might not seem all that important but just ask Germany what they feel about how this has worked out. Meanwhile, the lower end of the rankings have definitely benefitted from the Nations League. Gibraltar got their first competitive wins whilst Kosovo have shone in their second ever qualification campaign. Those teams who have a playoff berth should make for an entertaining qualifying campaign as they might as well just go for it if they are in the lower pots anyway. Less bus parking has to be a good thing.

So there you have it. All eyes on Ireland for the semi final draw and of course the Euro 2020 qualifying draw. I’ll be back soon with more but I’m off to hum the Nations League theme song until June.