In the far away distance of 2018, there is hope for likeminded football supporters and coaches who could all do without the numerous international breaks for friendly matches as UEFA have unanimously agreed to the formation of a Nations League that will replace international friendlies.
The 54 UEFA member associations have all agreed to the formation of a league system which will divide the 54 teams into four groups and will make use of a promotion and relegation process. The reward for success is believed to be qualification for the European Championships.
The Nations League and qualification for the European Championships will indeed be linked together with the league offering teams an extra opportunity to qualify for the tournament proper. Matches will take place within the already established international calendar however the ties in theory should be more competitive.
The new system has been pencilled in to begin with the qualification for Euro 2020.
The main problem club managers have had with international friendlies, and the often numerous injuries picked up within them, is that there is next to no point in the matches. Their argument being that the fixtures are often uncompetitive and dull, as well as a needless risk to their star players.
These arguments will no longer wash, although it is doubtful managers will be any happier with the new plans set in place. The number of matches will not decrease in the international calendar rather they will just be ‘competitive matches’ rather than friendly matches.
It is still undecided as to whether or not Football Associations will look to play matches outside of the international windows for example certain national teams like to partake in money spinning friendly matches in different areas across the globe, it remains to be seen if this process will be affected by the Nations League.
The real beneficiaries will be international managers who will have far more opportunities to work closely with their squads and create a tactical system for the team to follow. The players will have more time to work towards that system and learn the manager’s desires for his team.
The fact that all international matches involving UEFA nations within the international calendar will be part of a competition will also be a help to football associations selling matchday tickets and sponsorship packages. Although given time it is expected that the public interest in these matches will drop with many labelling the idea as one which creates ‘glorified friendlies’.
The idea has only been taken on by UEFA as of yet with other confederations waiting to see how the Nations League plays out before making a decision on whether or not they wish to adopt it themselves.
For supporters who enjoy competitive international football there is very little not to like. There will be more matches with consequence with teams of a similar quality likely to face each other more often due to being in the same division. For example away from the qualification stage where England often meet San Marino or Estonia, there is a possibility they now could face let’s say Germany in a competitive match away from a tournament proper, hence giving the players practice of a relatively pressured environment with their national team, something which England desperately need.
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