The UEFA Nations League: All you need to know

Gareth Bale has joined up with his Wales team-mates ahead of Thursday's clash with Ireland

Gareth Bale has joined up with his Wales team-mates ahead of Thursday's clash with Ireland

Right then, this three-team mini-league needs some incentive to go out and win their games, otherwise the aim of the Nations League, to get rid of pointless friendly internationals, would serve little objective.

France coach Didier Deschamps said the world champions can not afford any drop in standards as they prepare to launch their UEFA Nations League campaign away to Germany on Thursday. In leagues A and B, there are three teams per group.

Each league has then been subdivided into groups of three of four teams.

Of course, much like the Europa League, the offer of a qualification spot for the winners (or four winners in the UEFA Nations League's case) gives the tournament a much-needed objective.

There is a lot of hype surrounding the Nations League as it promises to reduce the number of meaningless global friendlies.

And on top of that, the winners of each league will qualify automatically for Euro 2020, meaning it's a back door into the finals should Northern Ireland mess up their qualifying campaign.

In the summer of next year, the four group winners in League A will come together for a tournament to crown the Nations League champions. The first match in this competition is going to be a grand affair as it pits world champions France against 2014 world champions Germany, who have a point to prove following their dismal showing at Russian Federation.

Southgate last week admitted the English Premier League's shrinking pool of homegrown talent could force him to look outside the top flight to fill his England squad in the future. The tournament gives context to global friendlies and it also partially contributes to the process of qualification for the 2020 Euros.

The matches are set to be played on Thursdays, ahead of Europa League matches.

Maguire isn't the only one to be confused by the Uefa Nations League, as fans have taken to Twitter to vent their frustration and bemusement at the tournament's format.

The French are in a hard group alongside previous world champions Germany (4/1) and Holland (40/1) whose stock has fallen considerably after failure to qualify for World Cup 2018 and Euro 2016. The remaining four places in the 24-team lineup will be decided in Nations League playoffs. That effectively guarantees one minnow will qualify (the highest seeding pot from League D consists of Azerbaijan, Macedonia, Belarus and Georgia), which can be seen as a positive or negative depending on whether you regard the tournament as being about spreading the game or pitting the best sides against each other. If any of the top teams have already qualified via the regular qualification process which is highly likely in League A, the next best team gets the chance to be a part of the playoffs. Qualifiers for the tournament will run from 21st March 2019 - 31st March 2020.

The Nations League will feature promotion and relegation between the groups and the additional carrot is the possibility of qualification for Euro 2020.

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