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With some domestic leagues in Europe still on break, bar the French Ligue 1 (which is already two weeks gone), players shift focus to represent their countries as International football makes a welcome return following the Coronavirus break.

A top encounter between Germany and Spain headlines the first international break in Europe this year as the glamorous UEFA Nations League takes center stage with kickoff slated for Thursday night.


We highlight some key things you need to know, refresh your memory about the Nations League, and breakdown the biggest games to look forward to in the group stages.

What is the Nations League again?

All you need to remember about the Nations League is that this competition was an innovative idea by the European football governing body, UEFA. Their goal was to replace the normal friendly matches countries would play during international breaks with more meaningful and competitive games for its member nations.

Is This The First Time?

Of course not, this isn’t the first edition but the second. The maiden edition was held in 2019 in Portugal with Juventus star, Cristiano Ronaldo, leading his country and host to victory over the Netherlands in a keenly contested match in front of their home fans. We suspect Lionel Messi fans won’t enjoy that piece of information at all.


What Else?

It gets even more interesting from here as this second edition of the Nations League is set to feature some tweaks, one of which is the absence of fans and then the relegation of teams (countries).

55 countries have been split into four leagues, A to D, based on their FIFA rankings when the draws were held back on March 3, 2020. The best 16 ranked nations find themselves in League A, which comprises four sub-groups with four teams each.

Leagues B and C follow the same format but only the last League, D, contains two groups with just seven nations. Each group winners in League A will advance to the final slated for June 2021, while winners of the groups in Leagues B to D will gain promotion to League A, while bottom nations A and B will face immediate relegation. But given that League D only has seven nations, there will be a two-legged playoff scheduled in March 2022 to determine who gets relegated.

An even more interesting tweak will happen when a playoff team makes it to the playoff of the FIFA 2022 World Cup. Here, the teams ranked 47th and 48th in League C overall in the Nations League will automatically be demoted.

Did someone just say “intriguing”? Sure, this is exactly why UEFA moved to replace the usual friendly games with something more competitive and interesting to fully engage its member nations during international breaks.

Therefore, now that you’re up to speed with some key info about the Nations League, what matches should you look forward to?

Thursday

Germany vs Spain

The group stages kickoff with this mouthwatering clash between the two of Europe’s football heavyweights – a tie that clearly defines the essence of the Nations League.

Two former European and World champions faceoff in a clash of the Titans at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Germany on Thursday night.

While this game should be an interesting one considering the caliber of players both nations have, what we can’t guarantee is goals going by the head to head between the two giants in recent times.

Just Four goals have been scored in this particular fixture in the last three meetings with the last match a 1-1 draw back on March 23, 2018, with Die Mannschaft hoping to make it three consecutive games without defeat against Spain. Apart from the draw in March 2018, they had won their November 2014 meeting before that 1-0.

Saturday, September 5

Football fans will be spoilt for choice this weekend with some quality games coming up in the Nations League.

Three clashes stand out in League A where Denmark host Belgium in group 2 while in group 3, it is a fight to finish as defending champions, Portugal host 2018 FIFA World Cup finalist, Croatia in the first game in that group.

Up next, world champions France are away to Sweden in the other group 3 encounter with Les Bleus set to miss the duo of Paul Pogba and Ndombele who have been ruled out after testing positive for COVID-19.

Other interesting ties to look forward to will be next week, Russia host Serbia while the Netherlands begin the post-Ronald Koeman era with a tricky home tie against four-times world champions, Italy.

Which of these games interests you the most and which player can’t you watch to see play for his country?

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