Why you MUST care about the Nations League
Last month, at the half-way stage of the 2020 Nations League campaign, I wrote about the importance of winning promotion to League A and the benefits for qualifying for World Cup 2022 and Euro 2024 it would bring.
Since then, Scotland beat the Czech Republic 1-0 at Hampden to remain top of the group.
Then, rightly so, attention turned to the trip to Belgrade and the crucial Euro 2020 Playoff Final against Serbia...
With that game out of the way and Euro 2020 qualification secured, attention can return to the Nations League campaign. Here's a quick reminder of the league table.
As you can see, a Scotland win against Slovakia would mean Promotion to League A of the Nations League. A draw or loss could also do it so long as it's couple with a draw in the Czech Republic v Israel game.
But what does it all mean?
Below, I've updated the previous explainer with the latest situation.
World Cup 2022
Qualifying groups for World Cup 2022 will be drawn in December 2020, based on the FIFA rankings at that time.
The good people at We Global Football have crunched the numbers and currently project Scotland to have risen to 43rd in the world (up from 49th). That would see us in Pot 3 unless Scotland win both games this week and other results go our way. Unlikely but according to them it's "not impossible" that Scotland jump into Pot 2.
In December we will be drawn into one of ten groups of 5 or 6. Matches will be played between March 2021 – March 2022.
Group Winners will qualify automatically while Runners-up will receive a Playoff Place.
World Cup 2022 Playoff
12 teams will receive a Playoff for World Cup 2022. Ten group runners-up and two from the Nations League.
Only Nations League group winners will be eligible for the Playoffs. The two highest ranked Nations League group winners (who haven’t qualified / finished runner-up in traditional qualifying) will receive the Playoff place.
Currently, in League A, Poland, Belgium, Portugal & Spain lead their groups. They are very likely to finish top-two in their World Cup qualifying groups.
In League B, Austria, Scotland, Russia and Wales are group leaders. So long as at least two of those teams finish top-two in their World Cup Qualifying group, then Scotland would definitely receive the Playoff if required.
Format for the Playoffs is the same as the Euro 2020 Playoffs – single-leg Semi Finals and single-leg Finals.
Nations League 2022
Will be played between June to September 2022.
Scotland would find themselves in League A, drawn against some of the best teams in Europe. This will be a real challenge for Scotland but bring glamour ties to Hampden.
Euro 2024 Qualifying
These qualifying groups will likely be seeded the same way as the qualifying groups for Euro 2020, using the Nations League ranking.
With Scotland in League A for the 2022 Nations League, a place in the 2nd pot of seeds would be guaranteed, something we haven’t enjoyed since qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.
Euro 2024 qualifying will follow the same format as Euro 2020, with groups of 5/6 and top 2 finishers qualifying automatically.
Euro 2024 Playoff
If Playoffs for Euro 2024 are formatted the same as Euro 2020, Scotland would be effectively guaranteed to receive a Playoff place (if required) from their position in League A.
Iceland for example were in League A for the inaugural season of Nations League. They played four games and lost all four. Every other League A team qualified automatically for Euro 2020, meaning Iceland received a Playoff route vs Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary from League C.
In summary, winning our League B group in the current Nation’s League campaign could return:
World Cup 2022: An exceptionally good chance of a Playoff if required.
Euro 2024: Seeded 2nd for qualifying AND a guaranteed Playoff if required.
Scotland have of course ended our qualification drought, but if we want to make sure that success isn't a one-off, winning promotion to League A would give us a massive helping hand.