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Nations League wrap-up: Promotions, relegations, Euro 2020 implications

The inaugural UEFA Nations League group stage is officially in the books after Tuesday’s final fixtures.

Billed by European football’s governing body as a leveler and a way to make previously meaningless international friendlies far more relevant, the new tournament pitted similarly-ranked countries against one another in a competition intrinsically linked to the 2020 European Championship.

But what was decided over the course of the two-month tournament?

Nations League finalists

NurPhoto / NurPhoto / Getty

Group winners:

These four nations will face off in June 2019 in a semi-final bracket before contesting the final and the third-place playoff. The draw for the Nations League finals will take place on Dec. 3.

Promotions

JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP / Getty

League B to League A:

League C to League B:

League D to League C:

These promoted teams will move up one tier in the next Nations League set for 2020-21. They’re also guaranteed a place in the Euro 2020 playoff if they do not make the tournament through the official qualifying process that begins in March.

Relegations

PATRIK STOLLARZ / AFP / Getty

League A to League B:

League B to League C:

League C to League D:

*Cyprus was relegated despite Albania finishing last in its group due to Cyprus finishing as the worst third-place team in League C (not counting results against fourth-placed teams).

These teams will move down one tier in the next Nations League.

Euro 2020

Jan Hetfleisch – UEFA / UEFA / Getty

So what does all this mean for Euro 2020? The draw for Euro 2020’s qualifying groups will take place on Dec. 2 – the day before the draw for the Nations League finals.

The qualifying process remains relatively unchanged: 55 teams will be split into 10 different groups – five groups of five countries and another five groups with six. The top two teams in each group will qualify directly.

But rather than use UEFA’s coefficient rankings like previous qualification processes, countries are now seeded according to their performance in the Nations League:

  • Pot 1: Netherlands*, Switzerland*, Portugal*, England*, Belgium, Croatia, France, Italy, Poland, Spain
  • Pot 2: Germany, Iceland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Austria, Wales, Czech Republic,
  • Pot 3: Slovakia, Turkey, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Serbia, Finland, Bulgaria, Israel
  • Pot 4: Hungary, Romania, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Cyprus, Estonia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Georgia
  • Pot 5: Macedonia, Kosovo, Belarus, Luxembourg, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Gibraltar, Faroe Islands
  • Pot 6: Latvia, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Malta, San Marino

* these teams must be drawn into one of the five-team groups to accommodate their Nations League finals fixtures in June

Interestingly, Germany was demoted into Pot 2 thanks to Poland’s final-day draw against Portugal. As a result, Die Mannschaft could have to qualify with England or World Cup champions France in their group, among others.

The standard qualifying phase for Euro 2020 will run from March to November 2019 when teams will book 20 of the tournament’s 24 berths. The remaining four spots will be filled through a playoff system initially populated by the 16 Nations League group winners – the four finalists and the 12 promoted countries.

Any Nations League group winner that fails to qualify directly through the standard qualifying process will have a second opportunity to earn a Euro 2020 berth in the playoff.

If a Nations League group winner qualifies directly they will be replaced in the playoff by the next-highest team from their Nations League division. If there are no eligible teams in that division, they will be replaced by the next-highest country in the final overall Nations League rankings.

Countries in the playoff will be separated into four brackets corresponding to their Nations League tier. Teams will play single-leg semi-finals within their bracket before playing one deciding final. The four final winners will earn the four remaining Euro 2020 berths.

For example, one of League D’s winners – Belarus, Georgia, Macedonia or Kosovo – is guaranteed a spot at Euro 2020 regardless of their performance in the regular qualifying phase because all four automatically qualify for the playoff.

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