How important was the Nations League?
The first UEFA Nations League concluded last week and AGONAsport investigates how important the competition actually was.
European football fans had to adapt to a new competition on the national stage as the UEFA Nations League entered the footballing world this September. The new competition came with mixed opinions, as it received heavy criticism from some and praise from others. However, after the conclusion of the first edition of the competition, many original critics felt as if the Nations League was a huge success.
In League A, great matches took place between European football’s powerhouses as they fought for a place in the first Nations League Final-4. Teams in League B and C (like Greece) fought to win their respective groups and secure a place in the EURO 2020 playoffs while others fought to avoid relegation. League D housed the minnows of Europe, who for the first time in their teams’ history, had something to fight for. Typically, these teams finish bottom of their qualifying groups with minimal (if any) points, but in the Nations League, they had the opportunity to be competitive in their group and possibly secure a place in the EURO 2020 qualifying playoffs.
The UEFA Nations League was created to replace friendlies on the international calendar but as fans began to understand the complicated competition, it became clear how important the Nations League games were. AGONAsport investigates.
EURO 2020 Playoffs
The UEFA Nations League provided teams with a second chance effort to qualify for EURO 2020. The actual qualifying process will take place from March 2019 through November 2019 with 20 teams set to receive a ticket to EURO 2020 via the actual qualifying process (the top two teams from the 10 qualifying groups). Four teams will qualify for EURO 2020 via the Nations League, which will complete the 24-team EURO 2020 puzzle.
The 16 group winners from the UEFA Nations League qualified for the EURO 2020 playoffs and if any of these teams fail to qualify for EURO 2020 via the qualifying process, they will have a second chance to qualify via the playoffs. Greece, who finished third in their League C group, will miss out on this opportunity and will have to qualify for EURO 2020 via the actual qualifying process. Many fans see this as a missed opportunity as the Ethniki were placed in a group with theoretically “inferior” teams such as Finland, Hungary, and Estonia.
EURO 2020 Qualifying Draw Seeding
The results in the UEFA Nations League were also important in the seeding of teams for the upcoming UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying draw. The six pots for the draw were formed based on the ranking of teams in the Nations League.
Teams ranked 1-10th in the Nations League were placed in pot 1, teams ranked 11th-20th were placed on pot 2, teams ranked 21st-30th were placed in pot 3, teams ranked 31st-40th in pot 4, teams ranked 41st-50th in pot 5 while pot six will consist of the teams ranked 51st-55th in the UEFA Nations League.
Greece fell within the 31st-40th ranked teams (33rd to be exact) in the UEFA Nations League and thus, will be placed in Pot 4 for the Euro qualifying draw. The Ethniki will have three theoretically “stronger” sides in their fight for a top two finish in their respective qualifying group, which lead to a place at the EURO 2020 finals. Again, fans see the Nations League as a blown opportunity for Greece to remain in Pot 3 for the draw, which would see the Ethniki have only two theoretically stronger opponents in their fight to qualify for EURO 2020. Unfortunately, a pot 4 placement will only make Greece’s task to qualify for the European championships all the more difficult.
2020/21 UEFA Nations League
The second edition of the UEFA Nations League will take place in September 2020 after EURO 2020 concludes. By finishing third in their group, Greece will remain in League C for the next edition of the competition. This could work against or in favor of Greece for the next Nations League. With one thought, Greece will be further down in the ranking of teams seeing that they are in League C, however, looking at the glass half full, Greece will have easier opponents in League C as opposed to “theoretically” stronger teams in League B.
It is unclear how the next UEFA Nations League will play a role in 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying. This will be announced at a later date but one thing is certain, the results of this past Nations League competition will surely impact the Ethniki in the next Nations League and very likely their World Cup qualifying campaign.