England draw Spain in new Nations League

England draw Spain in new Nations League

World champions Germany will face France and the Netherlands while England was on Wednesday drawn with Spain and Croatia in the new UEFA Nations League designed to replace friendlies.

Italy will seek to restore pride after their failure to reach this year’s World Cup when they take on Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and Poland, while Wales will play Denmark and the Republic of Ireland.

UEFA have devised the format to counter criticism of meaningless international friendlies. The 12 highest-ranked teams have been placed in League A and drawn in four groups of three. Below them are three other ‘Leagues’.

The last League A group contains Belgium, Switzerland and Iceland. “I am more than happy,” Joachim Loew, the Germany coach, told SID, an AFP subsidiary, with a touch of sarcasm after being paired with the French and Dutch. “Finally, we have a little luck in the draw. “It’s super interesting. These are interesting games for our fans,” Loew added, banging the drum for the new competition.

England manager Gareth Southgate concurred. “The whole concept of this tournament is that you play high-quality matches and competitive matches so that criteria is fulfilled with the group that we’re in,” he said.

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For new Wales manager Ryan Giggs, this competition provides a quick opportunity to take revenge on Ireland, who knocked them out of Euro qualifying following a 1-0 win in Cardiff in October.

The competition will initially be contested across 16 groups of three or four teams, with 12 teams each in Leagues A and B, 15 in C and 16 in D. The matches will be played in September, October and November of this year. The League A group winners will contest a ‘final four’ on June 5-9, 2019 to determine the tournament winner.

The bottom teams in each group in the top three leagues will be relegated, the top teams in each group in the bottom three leagues will be promoted.But there is also the carrot of four places in Euro 2020, one for each league. The best four teams in each league, who have failed to gain one of the 20 spots on offer in the traditional European qualifiers, will play off in late March 2020.