Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland avoid Nations League relegation as UEFA confirm format change

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Northern Ireland have staved off relegation after UEFA confirmed a reformatting of the Nations League tournament.

Have lost all four group games against Bosnia & Herzegovinia and Austria, Michael O'Neill's men were due to drop into League C, the third tier of the tournament.

The Republic of Ireland were also set to go through the trap door after finishing bottom of their League B three-team group.

Set to be relegated from League A, significantly, were Germany, who finished bottom of a mammoth group also featuring France and the Netherlands.

But all that has changed.

In the inaugural edition of the Nations League, there was an even split with 12 teams in each of the four leagues.

However, in the 2020/21 tournament, there will be 16 teams in each of the top three league structures and only seven in League D.

With Northern Ireland 28th in the Nations League rankings, they now fall comfortably within League B.

The move, UEFA say, was made following consultation with all 55 national associations and with a view to further reducing the number of friendly matches in international football.

So instead of going into a group of three teams and playing four Nations League games, Northern Ireland will be placed in a group of four teams, facing six group matches.

European Championship play-off places will still be decided based on Nations League performance.

The 2020/21 UEFA Nations League draw will take place in Amsterdam on 3 March 2020

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