Everything you need to know about the Uefa Nations League
Ireland discover their fate when the inaugural draw is held on Wednesday morning
Ireland could be drawn to play Christian Eriksen’s Denmark. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
What is it?
The Nations League is a new tournament that starts in September 2018 which will largely replace international friendlies and run alongside Euro 2020 qualifying.
How does it work?
The 55 teams within Uefa will be split into four leagues. Within those leagues they will be split further into groups of three or four (depending on the number of teams in the league) and will play each other in a round robin format. The winners of each group will then advance to playoffs to determine a winner of the league, while the best four teams will be promoted to league up, with the worst four teams being relegated to the league below.
How does it work alongside Euro 2020 qualifying?
The four league winners after the playoffs will qualify automatically for Euro 2020.
But does that not mean that the regular qualifying campaign will be meaningless for those teams?
No, it doesn’t because the playoffs don’t take place until March 2020 while the regular qualifying campaign ends in November 2019. If a team in the playoffs qualifies through the regular campaign then their playoff place goes to the next best team in their league.
What league are Ireland in?
Ireland are in League B - the second tier. The leagues are as follows:
League A: Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, France, England, Switzerland, Italy, Poland, Iceland, Croatia, Holland.
League B: Austria, Wales, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Ukraine, Republic of Ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Turkey.
League C: Hungary, Romania, Scotland, Slovenia, Greece, Serbia, Albania, Norway, Montenegro, Israel, Bulgaria, Finland, Cyprus, Estonia, Lithuania.
League D: Azerbaijan, Macedonia, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, Latvia, Faroe Islands, Luxembourg, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Liechtenstein, Malta, Andorra, Kosovo, San Marino, Gibraltar.
Who can we draw?
Ireland are seeded alongside Sweden, Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina in Pot 2 and cannot be drawn against them. Our potential opponents are therefore. . .
Austria: A disappointing Euro 2016 was followed by a disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign but the team took six points from six in October with the first three coming from a win over Serbia so there will high hopes for a better 2018 under new manager Franco Foda.
Wales: The wheels came off for the Euro 2016 semi-finalists when Ireland paid a visit to Cardiff last October and Chris Coleman has since departed to try and work even greater miracles at Sunderland. He has some talented players to work with but an awful lot will depend on how Ryan Giggs takes to his new job.
Russia: Having qualified for Brazil (above Portugal as group winners) then France, the Russians had a pretty miserable time at each and the Confederations Cup did little to inspire confidence ahead of this summer’s World Cup. There have clearly been better Russian teams but they would still be regarded as very tough opponents.
Slovakia: Like Ireland, they qualified for France and progressed from their group before getting well beaten in the Round of 16 and they also finished second in their World Cup qualifying group but ended up being the side to miss out on the play-offs. Lost to England at home along the way but won the other four they hosted without conceding, a run that included a 3-0 defeat of Scotland.
Northern Ireland: After their own success at Euro 2016, Michael O’Neill’s side narrowly missed out on a place at the World Cup but they have kept their manager and would surely relish a clash with their next door neighbours in this. Germany’s win in Belfast ended a long unbeaten run for their hosts and the Martin O’Neill connection would clearly add to what would already be memorable occasions.
Denmark: Finished second to Poland in their World Cup qualifying group and then… well, the less said about the ‘then’ the better. The Danes, as it happens, are the only team Ireland could be drawn against that are actually going to the World Cup this summer. The notion of an opportunity for revenge is appealing. The possibility of another drubbing, not so much.
Czech Republic: Having been one of the continent’s most exciting teams a decade or so ago, the Czechs have slipped a bit during the years since with the 15 points that separated themselves and Germany in the World Cup qualifying campaign providing a sense of where they are now. Michal Krmencik of Viktoria Plzen was their top scorer in the group but three of his four came in the two big wins over San Marino.
Turkey: Another side trying to recover lost ground, the Turks finished fourth in their qualifying group behind Iceland, Croatia and Ukraine. They changed coach towards the end of the campaign but so far there has been little sign of improvement under Romania’s Mircea Lucescu with the team having lost to Albania in a friendly last time out.
When will the groups be decided?
The group stage draw takes place this afternoon at 11am Irish time. The first games will take place on September 6th, 2018.