Preview of the UEFA Nations League

This week sees the commencement of the brand new UEFA Nations League and for many football fans it remains a fairly uncertain entity.

In a nutshell, this is UEFA’s attempt to get rid of meaningless friendlies as best they can. That has to be a positive. None of us get a lot of enjoyment from them.

Instead, similar-ranked European nations will face each other amongst groups of three and four teams. The outcome of these games will assist teams in getting into potential Euro2020 playoff matches in March 2020, should they fail to qualify via the traditional qualifying phase.

The European Qualifiers for the 2020 Finals now begin in March 2019, instead of the traditional autumn starting slot after a World Cup summer.

It is a convoluted process – this is UEFA we are talking about after all – but essentially the UEFA Nations League games mean that your country winning what would otherwise be meaningless friendlies will now begin to have longer term positive knock-on effects.

UEFA have split the 55 European nations into four subsets by their coefficients. There will be promotion and relegation from Leagues A down to D, bringing another healthy aspect to the new system.

At the top table, the 12 best-ranked nations, competing in four subsections with League A, will provide the make-up for next summer’s inaugural UEFA Nations League Finals.

The four winning nations from League A will play semi-finals and final, plus third-place playoff, with a host nation to be appointed once the four teams are known in December.

So that’s what it’s all about, give or take, but what will be looking for this week when it all gets underway? There are some fine prospects in place.

First up we’ll see how France accept the mantle of being World Champions when they travel to face Germany on Thursday. Didier Deschamps’ side are 2.85 to get the win and Les Bleus can be confident – they are undefeated in their last three games against Germany.

Joachim Low and his man are looking to rebound from what was a disastrous defence of the World Cup this summer. The pressure is squarely on the home side. Germany are favourites to win at 2.50 but the advice here would be a stalemate at 3.35.

Also on Thursday, Ryan Giggs takes charge of Wales in competitive play for the first time when they welcome the Republic of Ireland.

Martin O’Neill’s side recorded a famous 1-0 success in Cardiff last year to book their playoff spot for the World Cup, before bowing out to Denmark. It hasn’t been an easy build up for Ireland, with Declan Rice and Harry Arter opting out of the squad for differing reasons.

Wales will have revenge on their minds, while they’ll also be desperate to give Giggs a winning start. A free scoring affair is unlikely, but the home side are best-equipped to edge this contest and look a sound bet at 2.00 to get the win.

On Saturday it will be England’s turn once more as they attempt to build on the summer momentum of a World Cup semi-final appearance.

The last six meetings between England and Spain have been friendlies, with England losing four of them. They have lost one of the last three and England fans will still be wondering how they squandered a 2-0 lead in November 2016.

Adam Lallana and Jamie Vardy scored early in each half but Iago Aspas and Isco, in the 96th minute, rescued a draw for La Roja.

A similar outcome here could be in offing, with the teams likely to be closely matched. A 2-2 draw on Saturday is worth an interest at 14.25. This isn’t an easy start for either nation, one with World Cup momentum behind them and the other with a recovery to begin and, likely, both would accept a stalemate this time.