The 2018 World Cup was a truly remarkable one; English fans got swept up in a national euphoria not felt since 1996, every other game felt like an absolute classic with giant killings all over the gaff and the introduction of VAR saw the most penalties at a World Cup ever. 18 millions Brits watched the tournament with over 1.5 million choosing to do so in a pub.
This weekend sees the first international football since France lifted the trophy and thankfully, it should be a round of truly competitive games thanks to UEFA’s latest tournament. We’ve put together all you need to know and even chucked in some recommendations on how to nail international football this season.
What is Nations League?
Nations League is a new format splitting 55 European nations into 4 leagues based on their FIFA ranking. In those 4 leagues there are 4 groups in each league, made up of 3 or 4 teams (for example, England’s group is England, Spain & Croatia). The winners of each group get promoted a league and losers get relegated, with the 4 winners of league A playing in 2 semi-finals and a final to crown an eventual winner. (Slightly confusing, right? Check out THIS article for more details).
What does this mean for pubs?
If it all follows UEFA’s plan, it should be great news. Having 4 more competitive international fixtures a season should generate much more interest than 4 international friendlies would. MatchPint data shows that international qualifiers were the 6th most searched events last year and even friendlies had more searches than Champions League games.
While it doesn’t change much for pubs, the pub themselves can help make this event as big as they want. Everyone is already longing for the summer national euphoria of being in the pub with their mates, celebrating awesome matches and generating an awesome atmosphere. If pubs gear up for these games like any proper tournament game, they can help drive that experience that fans will want to keep coming back for.
When and where is it on?
There are 6 matchdays in total, but all of the home nations are in groups of 3, therefore they’ll only play on 4 of the 6 potential matchdays. You can see the matchdays below, with games being played on either Thursday nights, Friday nights, anytime Saturday or anytime Sunday for the weekend matchdays and Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday evenings for the midweek matchdays.
Sky Sports have the rights for ALL Nations League games, so there will be no free-to-air games in the new format. However, ITV still have the rights for England Euro 2020 qualifiers, starting in 2019, while Sky Sports still have all other home nations’ qualifiers.
Matchday 1: September 6-9, 2018
Matchday 2: September 9-11, 2018
Matchday 3: October 11-13, 2018
Matchday 4: October 14-16, 2018
Matchday 5: November 15-17, 2018
Matchday 6: November 18-20, 2018
Finals: June 5-9, 2019
Does this mean no more friendlies?
There’ll still be friendlies, just less of them. As mentioned earlier, all of the home nations only have 4 games, but there are 6 matchdays, so expect those other 2 gaps to be filled by friendlies.
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