What is it?
The UEFA Nations League is a new international competition designed to replace uncompetitive international friendlies. The home nations will be amongst 55 European countries that will be split into four leagues (A, B, C and D) based on the current UEFA rankings. Each league will be divided into four groups, with the group winners being promoted and the losers being relegated. The group winners in League A will qualify for the Final Four summer showpiece event, with the winner becoming the UEFA Nations League champion. England’s ranking places them in League A with a chance to win the inaugural competition, Wales and Northern Ireland are in League B, whilst Scotland find themselves in League C.
England will face Spain and Croatia in Group 4 of League A at the inaugural UEFA Nations League. Spain, the 2010 World Cup winners and three times European Champions (1964, 2008 and 2012), will be one of the favourites to win the first edition of the competition. England will be aware of the Croatian threat, after missing out on Euro 2008 courtesy of the Luka Modric led outfit.
Wales have been drawn alongside Denmark and the Republic of Ireland in Group 4 of League B for the UEFA Nations League. Ryan Giggs’ men will have revenge on their minds when they meet the Irish who defeated them 1-0 at the Cardiff City Stadium last October, to end their World Cup aspirations. The Republic of Ireland will have their own revenge in mind when they meet Denmark, who thrashed them 5-1 in Dublin, on the back of Christian Eriksen’s hat-trick, as the pair met in the World Cup play-offs.
Scotland -ranked alongside the Republic of Ireland in tied 32nd place- will compete in Group 1 of League C in their UEFA Nations League debut. Without a manager since Gordan Strachan departed, the Scottish will take on Albania (ranked 60) and Israel (ranked 99). Albania’s manager Christian Panucci will be a familiar face to the Scots, as his stoppage-time goal at Hampden Park for Italy ended Scotland’s Euro 2008 qualification hopes.
Northern Ireland will make their bow in the UEFA Nations League against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Austria in Group 3 of League B. The Bosnians are led by AS Roma striker Edin Džeko -their captain and all-time leading goal scorer (52 goals in 89 caps)- and talented Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanić. Austria also present their own threat to Northern Ireland in the shape of rejuvenated enigmatic West Ham striker Marko Arnautović.