On the 6th of September, a match between Kazakhstan and Georgia will initiate absolutely new football tournament called UEFA Nations Leagues. The main goal of the new UEFA project is to replace a huge number of friendly matches with participation of all fifty five national teams in frames of the official competition. Though, of course, regulations of the new tournament as in the majority of other innovations of the European Union of football associations, have raised certain number of interesting questions.
Of course, the fact that now, prior to the beginning of the new qualification for EURO 2020 we won’t see matches of the top football national teams with frankly weak rivals. All fifty five national teams, according to tables of ranks, are divided, by analogy with the hockey World Cup, into leagues. Here is the list of four leagues of the new tournament:
League A (12 teams): France, Croatia, Belgium, England, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, Iceland, Poland
League B (12): Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey, Russia, the Ukraine
League C (15): Scotland, Norway, Finland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Greece, Albania, Israel, Cyprus, Lithuania, Estonia
League D (16): Macedonia, Belarus, Moldova, Latvia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Malta, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Andorra, San Marino, Kosovo, Gibraltar, Faroe Islands.
In each league all teams are divided into four groups and during the period from September 6 to November 20 there will undergo all six rounds of the Nations League for Leagues C and D and only four rounds for less filled leagues A and B. And next year, after carrying out final rounds of the playoffs, winners of all four leagues which will receive direct berths into the final EURO 2020 tournament will be defined.
So, what do we have now? We will remind you that since the previous French EURO 2016, 24 national teams take part in the final tournament. And on the 2nd of December in the capital of Ireland – Dublin, draw procedure of ten qualification groups of the forthcoming championship will take place. Thus, according to the results of qualification campaign direct berths into the final tournament will be received by champions and vice-champions of ten qualification groups.
And winners of four leagues of the Nations League will receive four more berths. That is, in fact, the new project of UEFA has cancelled so popular earlier playoffs which were determining the last participants of final tournaments.
However exactly here is the most important contradiction! The League A is presented by twelve the most popular national teams which will win one final berth into EURO 2020. But, the main way of qualification of France, Croatia, Germany and Spain and all other participants of League A is another qualification campaign.
We will take one simple example! Defending champions of the world – French national team will become the winner of League A, and then will receive the direct berth into the final tournament as the winner of the qualification group. What team will represent in that case League A on EURO 2020? The fact that all subsequent rivals for the status of representative of League A are also qualified from their qualification groups is quite logical.
The option is that all twelve participants of League A will receive direct berths into the EURO final tournament from the qualification groups is quite real. Thus, the berth for the winner of League A will smoothly pass for the best representative of League B which hasn’t got into the list of twenty champions and vice-champions of ten qualification groups.
Let us sum up the reason for launching of the new tournament! Here the best national teams of League C and especially D will possess the biggest factor of motivation even if they don’t have chances to become the winner or the vice-champion of the group in the subsequent qualification stage.