Euro 2020 Special

The Nations League Semi-Final Draw

The draw for the semi-finals of this year’s Nations League has been made. The hosts the Netherlands will play Croatia, whilst Spain will face Italy in the other game.

The mini-tournament will be staged in the Netherlands this year. The Dutch Croatia game will be played in Rotterdam on June 14th, with the other semi-final taking place the following day in Enschede.

On 18th June, the third/fourth place game will be staged in Enschede, with the final coming later that same day in Rotterdam.


The Third Finals

This will be the third finals of the competition which was originally introduced by UEFA to give European teams more competitive fixtures to play in between major international tournaments than meaningless friendlies, which fail to excite the imagination of the public or the players themselves.

Portugal won the inaugural edition, beating the Netherlands in the final in Lisbon.

In 2021 it was the turn of France, who came from behind to beat Spain in Milan.


The contenders

The Netherlands

The Netherlands got to the quarter-finals of the World Cup only to lose to the eventual winners Argentina after a penalty shoot-out in a bad-tempered match, which saw the Spanish referee hand out a record number of cards.

That was Louis van Gaal’s last match in charge of the Dutch national side. He stepped down to be replaced by Ronald Koeman, back for his second stint as manager.

They will be hoping to make home advantage count.



Croatia are a country that continue to punch well above their weight when it comes to world football. Despite having a population of just 4.1 million, they were World Cup runners-up in 2018, and finished third in the tournament in Qatar.

They had one of the oldest squads in the last World Cup, but they can continue to count on the likes of Luka Modrić for this tournament at least.

Winning the tournament would perhaps be a fitting swansong to his international career.



Despite being European champions, Italy missed out on the World Cup after failing to qualify for the second tournament in succession. Roberto Mancini remains in charge of them, and they will be looking not only to make up for lost time, but also revenge when they face Spain. They lost to them at the semi-final stage in the last Nations League.

With Italian domestic football facing one of its periodic existential crises, success in June would come a welcome distraction.



Spain are also under new management. Luis Enriqué was fired after his team also were knocked-out of the World Cup on penalties at the quarter-final stage, with Morocco progressing at their expense.

Luis de Fuente, the former coach of their under-21 squad has been handed the job, and one of his tasks will be to ally the technical skills of his team with a cutting edge. Under Enriqué, the side were guilty of passing the ball multiple times without actually shooting.


Tournament set to be expanded

This is the last time the tournament will be held in its current format.

From 2024, the Nations League is to expanded in that a quarter-final stage will be introduced,

That will feature the top two teams in each of the four groups in League A, who will play a two=legged quarter-final. Matches will be played in the March international window in non-tournament years.

There will also now be a promotion-relegation play-off. Also played over two legs, this will feature the teams finishing third in Group A, and second in Group B, and the sides which comes third in Group B and the team coming second in Group C. Those games will be played in the same March window.

The semi-finals and final itself will continue to be single leg affairs.


UEFA hope to make it more exciting

The change to the format is intended to make the Nations League more exciting, and is perhaps a tacit admission by UEFA that, so far, it has failed to grip the public imagination.

It does not have the stature of a World Cup or a European Championship, and with the expanded Club World Cup on the horizon as well, means that top players are likely to find their precious summer breaks further eroded.




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