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Who can Northern Ireland face? Everything you need to know about the UEFA Nations League draw


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Corry Evans scored last time Northern Ireland faced Austria in the Nations League. The two sides could once again be placed together  in Tuesday's draw.

Corry Evans scored last time Northern Ireland faced Austria in the Nations League. The two sides could once again be placed together in Tuesday's draw.

Belfast Telegraph

Corry Evans scored last time Northern Ireland faced Austria in the Nations League. The two sides could once again be placed together in Tuesday's draw.

Northern Ireland are set to discover their opponents when the 2020-21 Nations League takes place in Amsterdam on Tuesday evening.

So who can the GAWA face, when are the matches and what's the new structure like?

Here's everything you need to know about the second installment of the tournament Jurgen Klopp once dubbed '"the most senseless competition in the world":

When is the draw?

The draw is due to start at 5pm UK time on Tuesday, March 3.

What is the Nations League all about again?

The main purpose of the Nations League is to reduce the number of meaningless friendlies and bring an additional competitive element to international football. Klopp didn't like it because, he said, it puts the international managers under additional pressure to get results, meaning there is less scope for the key players to get a rest.

Is it linked to World Cup qualification?

Yes, but not as strongly as the 18/19 Nations League was to Euro 2020 qualification.

This time, only two World Cup play-off places will be handed out on Nations League performance.

For the 2022 World Cup, the 10 group winners from the regular qualifying system go directly to the finals. The 10 runners-up enter the play-offs and will be joined by the two best-ranked Nations League group winners who did not qualify directly for the World Cup finals or the play-offs.

The 12 play-off teams will enter three separate systems, with semi-finals and finals to decide the three teams going to the World Cup.

So for that to impact Northern Ireland, they need to win their group and hope that enough of the League A group winners, as well as any higher-ranked group winners from League B, have already qualified.

How has the Nations League format changed?

Teams will this time compete in four-team groups, as opposed to the three-team groups of the 18/19 campaign. The changes mean that 16 teams will now compete in League A, B and C, with only seven in League D. Handily, it saved Northern Ireland from relegation to League C after their poor performance last time round.

The sceptical would suggest it rather conveniently prevented Germany from dropping down to the second tier. Officially, the decision was made to further reduce the number of international friendlies by upping the number of Nations League games.

Either way, it means Northern Ireland will compete in League B and will now have six Nations League matches rather than the four they had last time out.

Is there promotion and relegation?

Yes, teams who finish top of their groups in Leagues B, C and D will be promoted and teams finishing bottom of their groups in Leagues A and B will be relegated, while there will be relegation play-offs in League C. The four group winners in League A will go forward to the Nations League finals.

How does the draw work and who can Northern Ireland face?

The UEFA Nations League draw will see the 16 teams in League B placed into their four groups. The teams have been separated into four pots, based on their rankings in the Access List, formed from 18/19 Nations League performance.

Northern Ireland are in Pot 3, alongside Slovakia, Turkey and the Republic of Ireland, meaning the two teams from across the border can't go head to head.

Northern Ireland, and the Republic, will be drawn with one team each from pots 1, 2 and 4.

The are as follows:

Pot 1: Russia, Austria, Wales, Czech Republic

Pot 2: Scotland, Norway, Serbia, Finland

Pot 3: Slovakia, Turkey, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland

Pot 4: Bulgaria, Israel, Hungary, Romania

What would be the dream draw?

Based on current FIFA World Rankings (in brackets) - and bear in mind Belgium are currently world number one so their significance is questionable - the most winnable group would see Northern Ireland go in as the highest ranked team:

Dream group: Czech Republic (45), Finland (58), Northern Ireland (36), Israel (93)

What would be the nightmare draw?

From the same rather un-scientific, potentially unreliable, path the worst-case scenario is:

Nightmare group: Wales (23), Serbia (29), Northern Ireland, (36), Romania (37)

Who can England be pitted against?

All but one of the Home Nations are in League B. The outsiders are England, who are in Pot 1 of League A.

From Pot 2, they will face one of Belgium, France, Spain or Italy. Pot 3 contains Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ukraine, Denmark and Sweden while Croatia, Poland, Germany and Iceland are in Pot 4.

When will the matches take place?

The match dates are:

Matchday 1: 3–5 September 2020

Matchday 2: 6–8 September 2020

Matchday 3: 8–10 October 2020

Matchday 4: 11–13 October 2020

Matchday 5: 12–14 November 2020

Matchday 6: 15–17 November 2020

How can I follow the draw?

We'll have live updates on our website, so check back come draw time.

Belfast Telegraph