Much maligned on it’s introduction, the Nations League tore into life in the autumn of 2018 with some surprising results. England winning a group with Croatia and Spain, Germany finishing bottom of their group and most surprisingly (at the time) Finland winning their group with four wins in a row.
Markku Kanerva’s side won their opening four League C games, conceding zero goals in the process, with scores of 1-0, 1-0, 0-1 and 2-0. Even defeat in their final two matches was academic, as the Finns won group 2 ahead of Hungary, Greece and Estonia.
2020/21 sees the return of the tournament, but in different clothes – format changes have ensured that no-one was relegated from League A, plenty for the UEFA conspiracy tin-foil hat brigade to chew on. League D (the seven lowest ranked sides) are left to virtually fend for themselves. Of note, qualification for the next big event (World Cup 2022 in Qatar) remains, but the reward now is only two play-off spots for Qatar 2022.
Nations League 2020 Draw
The draw for this year’s tournament will be conducted on Tuesday March 3rd, no doubt another overblown UEFA gala. What we do know now is the leagues and the seedings.
Finland are in League B as reward for winning their division last time round. They are seeded in pot 2, along with Scotland, Norway and Serbia – so from pot one, they will face either Russia, Austria, Wales or Czech Republic, from pot three Slovakia, Turkey, Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland, along with Hungary, Israel, Bulgaria or Romania from the bottom pot.
Six matches against three rivals across September, October and November 2020. Winner goes up, loser goes down. All sounds fairly straight-forward. Right?
Don’t forget the World Cup places…
Qatar 2022 Qualifying
Thirteen Europeans teams will play at Qatar 2022. In qualifying, there will be ten groups of five or six teams. The winners will go straight through – leaving ten runners-up… And then two teams from the Nations League who have won their groups, who aren’t already in the twenty teams already decided. Confused yet?
Still more to come – the ten runners-up and the two Nations League group winners will be drawn into six single-legged ties, the winners of those playing another single-legged tie, leaving three teams who will only then reach Qatar 2022.
We won’t know the World Cup qualifying groups until the end of 2020. The seedings for 2018 were decided by the FIFA rankings of the month before the draw, which left Finland in pot five, calculated at the time of Mixu Paatelainen’s sacking. At the time of writing, using the same formula, Finland would be top of pot four. Finland’s performances during 2020, especially at the Euros, will affect their seeding. The sums involved for this, however, will need there own blog post – which I will probably be tasked with writing, at a later date!
Finland winning their Nations League group will put them in pole position. We’ll have to wait and see whether that is either likely or necessary…