In one of our earlier post, we not only explained why the UEFA Nations League came into existence but also delved into how it works. Essentially, it’s a replacement for the drawn-out friendly matches that occur during International breaks, keeping international teams on their toes by competing in a tournament that determines the seeding of the UEFA European Championships qualifying playoff. Now, as the group stage of the league draws to an end, we have a look at which teams qualified to the finals and which teams put on a sub-par performance to be relegated to the below-tier.
England put on a dramatic turnaround in the final minutes to win their last game against Croatia, ensuring a place in next year’s finals. With twelve minutes remaining, Croatia led 1-0 at Wembley Stadium and was poised to qualify for the finals. However, Jesse Lingard equalized which set Spain at the top of the table. However, a Harry Kane goal ensured a 2-1 victory for the Three Lions, as World Cup runner-ups Croatia gets relegated to the bottom tier.
Portugal had already qualified for next year’s finals, and the third place was taken by Switzerland, who thrashed Belgium 5-2 in a thrilling encounter. Along with Croatia, Germany was also relegated to League B after their dismal performance. Meanwhile, the 4th place to the finals would be decided in the match between Germany and the Netherlands. A win for the Netherlands would see them take the place, while a draw or a loss would see World Cup winners France in the UEFA Nations League finals.
While Wales remain in their own group, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have both been relegated. Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Denmark will be promoted to League A next year, where they can have a chance to win a place in the Euro 2020. In the bottom tier, Belarus have clinched a Euro 2020 play-off place and Kosovo could join them. Scotland, on the other hand, is promoted to Group B next year.
While England fans would gladly accept the results as a continuation to their brilliant run in the 2018 World Cup, Germany’s fall would result in some serious management changes. The Netherlands has been largely absent from major tournaments of late and will see their final qualification to be a sliver of good hope.
The group stages of UEFA Nations League has somewhat alleviated the boredom associated with mindless friendly games during the International break. It has definitely managed to engorge not only the larger nations but also the smaller ones, with the prospect of qualifying for Euro 2020 blooming in the air. While a majority of teams have fielded their best sides, bouts of players being tired are being discussed. Nonetheless, one hopes that UEFA Nations league keeps the importance of playing in the national team up and running during the club season.