The League of Nations – the future world championship from UEFA
Karpin expected four matches in twelve days
The summer in Europe will be a footballing one, despite the postponement of the World Cup to late fall and winter. The Nations League for Russia was supposed to start today in Albania, but the team was suspended from the tournament, as well as clubs from European competitions. Already on June 6 Karpin was preparing to play in Israel, and four days later – at home against the team of Iceland. Finally, a week and a half was to be separated by away and home matches against Albania.
In the shortest amount of time Valery Georgievich could have prepared his team for World Cup-2022 – it is possible that they would have got past the Poles and Swedes in the qualifying round to the final part of the World Cup. At the same time they could de facto enter League A with the elite national teams. But there is a different view of the new cup. Jurgen Klopp, whose club has played the maximum number of matches in a season, has called the Nations League a “ridiculous tournament.” He wants van Dijk and company to lay on the beach and then go straight to Liverpool’s training camp.
But not only for the superstars, but for the Russian team as well, and regardless of whether or not they qualify for the 2022 World Cup, the June fixtures would be useful. To test the newcomers, to prepare through official matches. Qualifying for Euro 2024 does not start until March next year, so only the League of Nations matches, if we had lost to the Poles or Swedes, would have kept the team afloat, not counting the friendlies, which are now in question. This is an important tournament for the development of all European teams. The group stage of the Nations League is compact, three slots a week, and the best of the worst teams will be rewarded with a playoff for the right to play at Euro 2024.
France won the title, but there are several favorites
In addition to the challenges for teams in the bottom three leagues — group winners go higher — there’s also the Final Four, which will be played a year from now. Last year, Italy lost at home to Spain and Belgium lost to France. Mancini won the third-place match, but in the final, Deschamps’ experienced wards beat Enrique’s young players. France became the second winner of the Nations League after Portugal.
Only two teams will fly out of Ligue C, the four worst teams will play in the 2024 qualifying round. And the winners of the last division, where the Moldovans and Estonians were, will move up one league. Northern Macedonia, Slovakia, Greece and Turkey are stuck in the third league, dreaming of a second-tier competition. Sweden, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland and Ukraine are planning to make a push for the elite league. And the juiciest is the main division of the Nations League, where the favorites have gathered.
Wales, Austria, the Czech Republic and Hungary won the right to play in League A, and there in the same group France, Denmark and Croatia guarantee plenty of great matches. Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and the Czech Republic are the real “group of death,” because remember how these teams performed at Euro 2020 a year ago. Italy, Germany and England in a quartet with Hungarians – a reference to the great past of Europe, all four teams represent countries with an enormous soccer history.
Finally, in Group A4 we see a showdown between Belgium and the Netherlands, with Lewandowski and Bale next to each other. A luxurious selection of matches for June and a set of opponents. Only 4 teams from the A-League will play in the big finals, so many big players have to try hard not to be shut out after the group stage.
In 2024, the Brazilians and Argentines will come in
The League of Nations is a universal name that allows you to look beyond Europe. While FIFA went for it head-on, hiring Arsene Wenger, generating ideas and proposing to hold the World Cup every two years, UEFA did the trickier thing. They covered up the fact that no one needs friendly matches and suggested a Nations League. The majority of the national teams liked the idea, they got the support of the top teams. Now it is an important tournament for the elite national teams.
The victories of Ronaldo and Bernardo, Benzema and Mbappe allowed the two countries (and they are millions of fans) to experience the joy of soccer triumph all over again. And now they are proposing a completely different tournament based on the current one. UEFA vice president Zbigniew Boniek said last year that the next League of Nations would have a revolutionary format. Ceferin met with representatives of CONMEBOL, Argentina and Brazil are also fed up with friendly matches.
Yesterday’s Finalissima is an example that you can bring together Italy and Argentina, not even France and Brazil, hand the winner a cup and attract millions of spectators. Klopp forgets that the world is not limited to the wonderful Liverpool fans who came to celebrate their League Cup and England Cup victories, despite losing in the Champions League final. Every great team has millions of fans at home and abroad.
Consequently, UEFA plans to make the Nations League a unifying tournament for South America and Europe. The format is being thought through, but the top six overseas teams will go to League A, and another four will go to League B. Of course, it is crucial that Brazil and Argentina not drop out for the subsequent tournament to matter, but if you imagine that years from now the Russian team will be in the Nations League group with the Brazilians, the French and the English, it is a steep test from which it is strange to run away.
There is nothing ridiculous about the League of Nations, although we note UEFA’s cynicism. European officials talk about how a World Cup every two years will kill the health of players. Some complained that increasing the number of World Cup participants wouldn’t work, but they themselves expanded the Euro finals long ago. And the result has not disappointed. While Infantino is living in Qatar with his new best friends, Ceferin has promoted a new format for the Champions League, and at the same time planned to expand the Nations League to include Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay.
We know ahead of time that the fights will be hot. Spain will play today against Portugal, and in the next few days we’ll see matches between Belgium and the Netherlands, France against Denmark, Italy and Germany, and then the Germans against the English. It’s ridiculous to stutter that the usual friendlies – and they wouldn’t go anywhere, because the national team coaches have their own preparation plan – are more interesting than an organized cup with a trophy and tournament goals. And when South Americans are in, the Nations League will get a new lease of life, as the central matches will be watched on two soccer continents.