21.10.2020 » A guide to the Nations League
Cristiano Ronaldo's army of fans around the world must have been thrilled to see him reach the milestone of 100 international goals in Portugal's Nations League match against Sweden in September. Naturally, he reached the record in style, curling a free-kick into the top corner, then adding a second goal for good measure. His skills have taken Portugal to join 4th favourites in what is considered a wide-open competition, with Unibet offering an attractive 7-1. But what exactly is the Nations League, and how does the competition work?
UEFA Nations League 2019 - Portugal's victory:
A new international tournament
The Nations League was created in 2018 to increase the number of competitive games for international teams. Outside of the World Cup and the European Championships, teams only had friendly matches to play, with little at stake to drive their performances. The aim of the new league was to reduce the number of these friendlies and make internationals more meaningful, bringing out the best in each side.
How does it work?
The Nations League tournament takes place every two years, and includes all 55 members of UEFA, from the bottom-placed San Marino and Malta to reigning champions, Portugal. The tournament is divided into four leagues, with leagues A, B, and C containing 16 teams in four groups of four, and league D containing seven teams. Leagues A and B contain the 32 top-ranked teams in Europe.
The winners of the four groups in League A contest in the finals, with two semi-finals, a third/fourth place playoff, and a final. In the inaugural tournament, Portugal won the finals at home, under the captaincy of Cristiano Ronaldo, beating the Netherlands 1-0 thanks to a 60th-minute goal from Guedes.
England beat Switzerland 6-5 on penalties to claim third place after a goal-less draw. Overall, Ronaldo scored three tournament goals in 2018/19 and he has scored two already in 2020/21 with potentially four games left to play.
Lots more to play for
Besides the championship itself, there is plenty more to play for in the Nations League. The tournament forms part of the qualification for the European Championships, with four of the 24 places in the finals up for grabs. It can also provide a route into the second round of qualifying matches for the next World Cup finals.
Even within the tournament itself, teams at every level are playing for promotion through the ranks, or to avoid relegation to a lower group. This makes every match matter, fulfilling one of the founding principles of the Nations League.
How is it going so far?
After the October games, Ronaldo's Portugal is top of Group A3 with three wins and a draw, with an impressive nine goals scored compared to just one against. This puts them above France on goal difference. With fellow Group A3, Croatia on just three points from a single win, and Sweden yet to claim a single point, only the two top teams have a chance of reaching next year’s finals.
This makes the match between Portugal and France on Saturday 14th November something of a final, with the winners progressing to the tournament finals in October 2021.
Cristiano Ronaldo next game for Juventus in the Serie A is on October 25, against Hellas Verona. You can watch Juventus vs Hellas Verona, Real Madrid vs Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter vs Borussia M'Gladbach, Man City vs Porto, Ajax vs Liverpool, and Bayern Munich vs Atletico Madrid, all matches provided from our streaming sport game pages.
Juventus next game:
Juventus vs Hellas Verona kick-off time (25-10-2020):
Beijing (China) | UTC/GMT+8: 02:45
Jakarta (Indonesia) | UTC/GMT+7: 01:45
India (New Delhi) | UTC/GMT+5.30: 00:15
Italy (Turin) | UTC/GMT+2: 20:45
Spain (Madrid) | UTC/GMT+2: 20:45
Portugal and England (Lisbon/London) | UTC/GMT+1: 19:45
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) | UTC/GMT-3: 15:45
New York (United States) | UTC/GMT-4: 14:45
Los Angeles (United States) | UTC/GMT-7: 11:45