Why the UEFA Nations League is what international football needed
Written by: Neil Talnikar
The new competition has not only provided for engaging fixtures in the international break but has also opened a pathway for Euros qualification.
A couple of months ago when the UEFA introduced the Nations League, there was a sense of a revamp in the annoying system of international friendlies that kept popping up between the domestic seasons. However, the norms of this newly formed league were unknown to the masses, leaving them perplexed.
The prime objective behind the foundation of the league was to eradicate the existence of these meaningless international friendlies, to bring upon a new system where the low ranked teams could stand a chance to demonstrate their qualities against a fair opposition and to foster a sense of competitiveness in those matches.
Another exciting yet important feature of the system is that the teams, especially the lower ranked, which don’t qualify for the European Championship through the regular qualification process, can still get a chance to book their place in the tournament, through the Nations League.
Gibraltar, a tiny British overseas territory, serves as the best example yet to support the Nations League. The country, which is a part of Group 4 of League D along with Macedonia, Liechtenstein and Armenia, won their first-ever competitive game since joining the UEFA in 2013. A 1-0 away win at Armenia- a stronger team consisting of Arsenal’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan, ensured them an achievement of a historical feat.
For Gibraltar or any such low ranked teams, the Nations League serves as great chance to qualify for the Euros as they certainly fall too weak against oppositions such as Germany, Belgium and other top-ranked teams. Thus, with this newfound league, everyone faces a fair and an equally strong opposition based on their world rankings.
Of course, with the positives of any system bring along with them the negatives. In this case, however, the former certainly outweigh the latter. For instance, now the intensity of the Nations League games is high, players naturally perform to their fullest potential for their respective countries. This emerges as a threat to the domestic clubs, which face a risk of losing their players to injuries affecting their domestic seasons.
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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was one of the first to criticise the League for disturbing the domestic calendar of the clubs. The German was of the view that with a hectic schedule due to the tournament, players get less time for recovery between the matches. Having been fatigued this might keep them from performing at their greatest potential.
The former Borussia Dortmund manager was furious over the full international calendar and lambasted the Nations League as “ the most senseless competition in the world.”
Apart from the rants, the 51-year-old manager might have made a point of his own. Unfortunately, his German counterpart Joachim Loew shared a different view and so did Turkey boss Mircea Lucescu who went on to call his comments as ‘ego-driven’.
Even Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson dismissed his own boss’ criticism, stating, “As a footballer, you want to win every game- even if it’s a friendly. And for us, the Nations League is important.”
Not only them but many experts of the game, pundits, officials and retired players have also appreciated the reforms brought upon in the international footballing system. With two rounds played, the newly found tournament has already turned the attention of many followers of the game and it is a matter of time when the League will get the treatment of an elite competition in the upcoming years.
Most of the European countries have understood the importance of the competition and can now showcase their capabilities more regularly at the higher level. This might provide a platform for players too, especially from the low ranked countries, to acquire the attention of clubs from Europe’s topmost leagues.
Being the most popular sport in the world, it is a necessary measure to constantly revise the customs of the administration to maintain it’s very status. Accordingly, UEFA has taken a great initiative by introducing the Nations League and contributing towards the revolution of European football.
Published: Wed Oct 17, 2018 06:00 PM IST