Belfast Telegraph

Teams learn their status for new Uefa tournament

 

By Adam McKendry

Northern Ireland have been placed in the second tier of Uefa's brand new Nations League which gets underway next year.

The new competition, which will provide international sides with more competitive games instead of just friendlies, has split the 55 Uefa nations based on their coefficient.

The tournament also offers an additional route into the 2020 European Championships as the four best placed finishers in each League who have not yet qualified via the regular qualifying format will enter a play-off and compete for one additional spot.

At the conclusion of the World Cup qualifying groups, Northern Ireland ranked 21st, good for a place in League B alongside Wales and the Republic of Ireland.

Wales were narrowly pipped to the final spot in League A by the Netherlands and instead have to settle for a place in the second tier.

Also in League B are Northern Ireland's recent group foes the Czech Republic, as well as potential World Cup play-off opponents Denmark and the hosts of next year's finals Russia.

The other sides in League B are Austria, Slovakia, Sweden, Ukraine, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Turkey.

A cross-border match with the Republic isn't guaranteed to be on the cards, however, as the 12 teams in League B will be split into four groups of three courtesy of an open draw, albeit Russia and Ukraine will be kept apart.

The winners of the four groups will be promoted to League A, from which the bottom placed sides of the four groups will be relegated to League B.

Similarly, the four bottom placed sides in each League B group will be relegated to League C for the next rotation, which will begin in 2020.

Teams will play the other two sides in their groups home and away to determine the final standings in each group.

Games will be played across six match days in September and November 2018, with the play-off taking place in March 2020 following the conclusion of the regular qualifying groups.

As Northern Ireland will be in a group of only three teams, they will therefore play on just four of the six matchdays in the Nations League.

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