Following the postponement of the UEFA European Championship in March due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, international football was also halted. However, as European nations slowly control the situation, with domestic league and cups ended their season last month, UEFA’s newest international football tournament will see its return this week.
The second edition of the UEFA Nations League kicks off on September 4 with Portugal looking to defend their title. In the past, the continent’s leading international teams would have been returning to the pitch less than eight weeks following Euro final. However, due to the halted season, they will be playing after 10 months of hiatus since completing Euro qualifying last November.
The UEFA Nations League consists initially of a league phase, with four leagues involved. The 55 European countries are split across four leagues – A, B, C and D. The top three leagues contain four groups of four teams, while league D has two groups, one with four teams, and one with three. Each team plays the others in their group home and away.
The team to win each group in League A, which England won in its pilot edition, will go into the finals tournament in September or October 2021, supposed to be in June. Teams that top their group in Leagues B, C or D will be promoted, while sides finishing bottom of their group in Leagues A and B will be relegated and will enter the play-off round to decide who goes down from League C.
The first steps towards qualification for the 2022 World Cup for European teams starts here. The best two Nations League group winners who do not reach the World Cup or play-offs through normal qualifying, which starts March 2021, will go into the 12-team World Cup European play-offs in March 2022 with three qualifying for the tournament in Qatar.
Six rounds of Nations League matches will take place in total between September and November, with the top four nations coming together for the finals. Group stage fixtures kick off on 3 September, with later matches to be played on September 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, October 10, 11, 13,14, and November 14, 15, 17 and 18. The second two breaks have been moved back by two days because of the Euro 2020 play-offs.
There a lot of exciting fixtures in the opening week, including Germany hosting Luis Enrique’s Spain, his first game as a coach. Gareth Southgate’s England play away in Iceland and Denmark, while there will be a repeat of the 2018 World Cup final when France host Croatia at an empty Stade de France. In the meantime, this Nations League will start with all games behind closed doors