Nations League: Is it a major trophy if England win?
Background photo: Cedric23170, CC BY-SA 4.0
As Susanna Hoffs would sing, it was a Manic Monday in football terms. The day began like too many Mondays when Southampton sacked manager Mark Hughes. It ended on a sweeter note when England drew the Netherlands in the UEFA Nations League draw. The two meet on Thursday 6 June in Guimaraes, Portugal. The host nation is involved. They play Switzerland in Porto a day earlier, leaving the winner between the Three Lions and l'Oranje a day less to prepare for the final in Estadio do Dragao on Sunday the ninth.
The Dragons' Den will be rocking should Cristiano Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva and company make it to the final. Victory represents a chance for the former Manchester United and Real Madrid legend to go two up on Lionel Messi in the major trophy department for their respective national teams. That is if we're willing to call the Nations League a major tournament.
It seems like a breeze of a tournament because the groups are smaller but the winner plays one less match [six] than they would in the World Cup or the newly formatted European Championship.
Strangely, it's shorter but also much longer, with the group stages played out in late summer and autumn and the finals eight months later. The intensity doesn't build in the same manner it would if the tournament were held over three or four weeks.
Nevertheless, the groups are not seeded. To reach the semifinal round England, Portugal, Switzerland and the Netherlands faced only the best European teams. England knocked off World Cup nemesis Croatia and Spain to qualify. The Netherlands topped France and Germany, no mean feat for a side who missed the past two major tournaments. Switzerland and Portugal enjoyed slightly easier fixtures against Belgium and Iceland, Italy and Poland respectively.
There's no point in handicapping the result when the next round is so far off. Squads will change, as will form and quite possibly managers and tactics. The fun part for English fans is they have a second chance to bring football home again in the tangible as well as spiritual sense. Even better, Portugal is a pleasant destination in June.
The draw for the finals capped off the group stage but only affected the group winners in League A, the Nations League's top division. Teams who finished bottom in Leagues A, B and C dropped down a level. Sides who won Leagues B, C and D moved up. There were some fascinating developments in the promotion and relegation phase of the competition.
Take a look.