The Malta Independent 5 March 2024, Tuesday
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World Cup finalist France, Euro 2020 winner Italy, Belgium and Israel drawn in Nations League group

Associated Press Thursday, 8 February 2024, 18:33 Last update: about 22 days ago

World Cup runner-up France, European champion Italy, Belgium and Israel were drawn together in a tough group Thursday for the men’s UEFA Nations League that starts in September.

The Nations League is the next action for UEFA member countries after this summer's European Championship, where France, Italy and Belgium — all top-10 teams in the FIFA world rankings — have qualified for the tournament in Germany and Israel is in the playoffs next month.

Nations League champion Spain was drawn in a group with Denmark plus Switzerland and Serbia who will resume a strong rivalry that was fueled by Swiss wins in their games at the past two World Cups.

Euro 2024 host Germany is in a Nations League top-tier group with Netherlands, Hungary and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Croatia was top-seeded in a group with Portugal, Poland and Scotland.

England is ranked No. 3 by FIFA yet was relegated from the top-tier Nations League group in 2022 and will face Finland, Greece and Ireland. It will be the first competitive match between England and Ireland since 1991.

“I think everybody in England will think it was a big disappointment to drop down to League B but you still have difficult games," coach Gareth Southgate said.

Group-stage games in all four tiers are played from September to November.

In top-tier League A, the top two teams in each group advance to the quarterfinals in March 2025. The semifinals and final are a mini-tournament hosted by one of the competing countries.

The Final Four is scheduled June 4-8, 2025, before many players return to their clubs for the inaugural 32-team Club World Cup in the United States. That monthlong FIFA tournament starts June 15, 2025.

A route to qualifying for the 2026 World Cup is also on offer from the Nations League group standings in November.

European playoffs for the next World Cup are scheduled in March 2026 and will offer four entries to the final tournament being played across North America. The 16 teams in those playoffs in two years' time will include four places based on Nations League rankings.

Draw made Thursday for the group stage of the 2024-25 UEFA Nations League:

League A

Group A1: Croatia, Portugal, Poland, Scotland.

Group A2: Italy, Belgium, France, Israel.

Group A3: Netherlands, Hungary, Germany, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Group A4: Spain, Denmark, Switzerland, Serbia.

League B

Group B1: Czech Republic, Ukraine, Albania, Georgia.

Group B2: England, Finland, Ireland, Greece.

Group B3: Austria, Norway, Slovenia, Kazakhstan.

Group B4: Wales, Iceland, Montenegro, Turkey.

League C

Group C1: Sweden, Azerbaijan, Slovakia, Estonia.

Group C2: Romania, Kosovo, Cyprus, Gibraltar or Lithuania.

Group C3: Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Northern Ireland, Belarus.

Group C4: Armenia, Faeroe Islands, North Macedonia, Latvia.

League D

Group D1: Gibraltar or Lithuania, San Marino, Liechtenstein.

Group D2: Moldova, Malta, Andorra.

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