Exhibition matches for national teams were a large cause of irritation among football fans, coaches and players. Often cited as unnecessary and a waste of time, UEFA sought a solution and came up with the Nations League in 2014.
All 55 UEFA countries are divided into four divisions. All divisions are split up in groups of three, and those teams play each other home and away. The country that ends last in their group is relegated to a lower division. The winner of the group advances to the final round of four, where a winner is determined through two semi-finals and final. The group winners in divisions B, C and D earn a promotion.
The video below explains the set up in more detail:
The two most recent World Champions in one group, together with The Netherlands. It’s a very tough draw for Oranje. For the match against France, the chances of winning even a point are slim, to say the least. Based on EPI (EuroPlayerIndex*), our simulations give the Netherlands a 10% chance of winning against France on Sunday evening. A France win comes out at 66%, while there is a 24% chance of drawing.
All is not lost though. The champions of every division get a guaranteed starting spot at the European Championships. If Oranje indeed finishes third in this group, the next cycle will be played in Division B. This might be an easier path to qualifying.
Wesley Sneijders final cap for the Dutch national team
Before the clash against France on Sunday evening, there is also a little party on Thursday evening. The friendly match against Peru will be the last for Wesley Sneijder, who played the most caps for the Dutch national team. It will be his 134th game for Oranje.
Sneijder played his first match for the Dutch national team in 2003 and was a starter at the major tournaments of 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014.
He was the joint top-scorer of the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and guided the Netherlands to the final in Johannesburg. Against Peru, he will be substituted in the 60th minute.
* The EuroPlayerIndex is a ranking of individual players, which objectively measures the added value of each individual player to the overall team performance. This is done by looking at the change in the team’s winning odds during the period the player was on the pitch.