This morning saw the draw for the newly-formed UEFA Nations League, which will begin in September and will give a competitive edge to the upcoming games.
UEFA’s 55 nations have been split into a total of 16 groups – four pools in each of League A, B, C and D – and group games will take place in September, October and November. Relegation and promotion is a possibility… and each of the group winners in League A will contest the finals tournament next June!
That will, of course, affect a number of current Royals – here’s a quick run-down of how some of our international players could be affected…
Group A2 – Iceland
Striker Jón Daði Böðvarsson is our sole representative in the top tier of the upcoming tournament – he could be an Iceland representative for their Group A2 meetings with Belgium and Switzerland.
Qualifying automatically for the World Cup in Russia, the Icelanders have been rewarded with a place amongst Europe’s top 12 – if they were to top their group, they would then compete in the finals tournament in the summer of 2019. If they finish bottom, they will be relegated to League B.
Iceland will host both Belgium and Switzerland in Reykjavik, as well as travelling away to Brussels and one of Switzerland’s many Raiffeisen Super League stadia which host their national team.
Group B4 – Wales and Republic of Ireland
After Chris Gunter and Dave Edwards missed out on qualifying for this summer’s World Cup with Wales, they’ll have a chance to exact some revenge on the Republic of Ireland – the nation who pipped them to the runners-up spot on the final matchday – as they have each been draw in Group B4.
Paul McShane was part of the Ireland squad which subsequently contested the play-off against Denmark, only to lose 5-1 on aggregate, allowing the Danes to gain passage Russia 2018. And, by chance, Denmark complete the trio of teams in a group which will see plenty of grudge matches.
Dublin, Cardiff and Copenhagen will host the group games, with one side earning promotion to League A, another relegated to League C, and one staying put for the following tournament.
Group C2 – Finland
Anssi Jaakkola and Finland will contest six games in total, in one of League C’s four-team pools. It’ll mean a trip over the Baltic Sea to meet Estonia, as well as trips to Hungary and Greece, and greeting each country to Helsinki across the three international breaks.
Finland amassed just 9 points in World Cup 2018 qualifying – fewer than Greece (19), Hungary (13) and Estonia (10). A bottom-placed finish would result in relegation to League D, and even coming third could result in demotion. The group winner steps up to League B.
In one of the competition’s quirks, Finland were initially pooled in the same group as Norway but a redraw was quickly conducted – UEFA’s stipulations meant that no more than two of Norway, Finland, Lithuania and Estonia could be in a single group in order to minimise potential disruption caused by the freezing temperatures… Helsinki’s average temperature in November is 0°C.
Group C4 – Romania
It’s fair to say that group C4 could be explosive – Adi Popa’s Romania will line up against Lithuania, Serbia and Montenegro.
Popa, who has 22 caps to his name for the ‘Tricolorii’, could potentially make trips to Vilnius, Belgrade and Podgorica, with all three nations due to visit Bucharest.
For Serbia and Montenegro, it will be the first time that the two nations have met – they competed as a combined country between 2003 and 2006 after the breakup of Yugoslavia, but haven’t met at senior level in the 12 years since they became independent of each other.
Group D4 – Liechtenstein
League D sees many of Europe’s minnows competing for a chance to take a step up to the third tier – one of Liechtenstein, Gibraltar, Macedonia and Armenia will be in League C next time around after they meet in D4 this year.
Realistically, for Sandro Wieser’s Liechtenstein, there isn’t a great deal of hope – along with Gilbraltar, they didn’t accrue a single point in the World Cup 2018 qualifying, while Macedonia earned 11 (beating Liechtenstein 3-0 away and 4-0 at home), and Armenia gained 7.