The third edition of the UEFA Nations League begins in June 2022. Here's a guide for all you need to know about the competition.
What is the UEFA Nations League?
It is a competition between the 55 member nations of UEFA, created because "UEFA and its associations wanted more sporting meaning in national team football, with associations, coaches, players and supporters increasingly of the opinion that friendly matches are not providing adequate competition for national teams."
So this means there are no more international friendlies?
Pretty much, especially with the UEFA Nations League forced into all remaining international dates in 2022 before the World Cup starts.
In 2023, qualifying for Euro 2024 will take up the dates, meaning only countries in groups of five teams, who have two spare matchdays, will play friendlies.
What is the format?
The 55 nations are split into four "Leagues." The strongest nations are in League A, and the weakest in League D.
Leagues A, B and C: Four groups of four nations (16 teams each)
League D: One group of four and one group of three (7)
Teams within each group will play each other home and away.
What are the UEFA Nations League groups?
Group B1: Ukraine, Scotland, Republic of Ireland, Armenia
Group B2: Iceland, Russia*, Israel, Albania
Group B3: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, Romania, Montenegro
Group B4: Sweden, Norway, Serbia, Slovenia
Group C1: Turkey, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Faroe Islands
Group C2: Northern Ireland, Greece, Kosovo, Cyprus
Group C3: Slovakia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan
Group C4: Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Georgia, Gibraltar
Group D1: Liechtenstein, Moldova, Andorra, Latvia
Group D2: Malta, Estonia, San Marino
Are Russia taking part in the UEFA Nations League?
As part of the sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine, Russia will not participate in Group B2 and will automatically be ranked last in the group and relegated, ranked in 16th in League B.
What are the group fixture dates?
Matchday 1&2: June 1-8, 2022
Matchday 3&4: June 9-14, 2022
Matchday 5&6: Sept. 22-27, 2022
Will there actually be UEFA Nations League champions?
Yes. The four group winners from League A will play off in knockout format. The semifinals will be held on June 14 and 15, 2023 with the final on June 18.
Belgium, Netherlands, Poland and Wales have applied to host the finals, the four countries from Group A4. The hosts will be appointed in January 2023, but it usually goes to the winners of the group as they will be taking part.
The finalists will be drawn into a group of five nations in Euro 2024, qualifying the June dates can remain free for the Nations League finals.
Who are the UEFA Nations League holders?
France won the 2020-21 UEFA Nations League final as goals from Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe earned them a 2-1 win over Spain in Milan, Italy. Mikel Oyarzabal had put Spain in front.
The inaugural winners in 2019 were Portugal, beating Netherlands 1-0.
Is there promotion and relegation?
Yes. The winners of each group in Leagues B, C and D move up, while the nations bottom of Leagues A and B drop down for the next edition of the Nations League. The four bottom teams in League C will have a playoff to decide which two nations drop to League D.
How will the Nations League affect Euro 2024 qualifying?
UEFA has yet to confirm the qualifying process for Euro 2024, though it is expected to be ratified in June 2022.
The expectation is that there will be 10 groups, with the top two nations in each group qualifying alongside hosts Germany. The remaining three places are expected to be decided by playoffs, with one qualification path allocated to Leagues A, B and C.
How much is the UEFA Nations League worth?
Guaranteed solidarity funding for each country by League is as follows:
League A: €2.25m
League B: €1.5m
League C: €1.125m
League D: €750,000
League winners get a double payment. The League A finalists also have a prize pool, and in 2019 champions Portugal took home a total of €10.5m, Netherlands €9m, England €8m and Switzerland €7m.
When is the next Nations League?
The international calendar starting in 2024 has yet to be finalised by FIFA, but it is expected the next edition will played in September to November 2024 with the finals in June 2025.
Reports have suggested that South American teams, including Argentina and Brazil, could be added to the competition at the point, creating a lucrative cross-confederation Nations League.