It seems fitting that i've been asked to wax lyrical about this evening's inaugural night of UEFA's newest brainchild (undoubtedly from some of the great minds that brought you a 48-team World Cup, abolished the Golden Goal, and introduced VAR), the UEFA Nations League
, as the last few pieces I’ve published also relate to overpaid folk mincing about on TV screens with very little rebate in the form of viewing pleasure (Love Island
& the Harry/Meghan wedding
spring to mind).
Billed as an attempt to rid the world of pointless international friendlies, the concept should actually be quite simple. Let teams of a similar quality play against one another in a competitive format to earn a second stab at qualification for a summer tournament. Great, so, teams who have historically struggled in competitive groups will have more opportunity to progress.
But wait, there's more...
UEFA Curveball: 24 of the best teams in Europe all at a summer tournament? Fantastic. Oh no, no no. That would be all too plain. Lets guarantee a spot to one of the worst 16 teams eligible. After all, who needs Wales or Scotland when you can have the Faroe Islands or Gibraltar? Tune in next year to see which nations' fans are incensed by the fact that even if the entire nation of Kosovo decided to attend their 1st group match, they still wouldn't sell out their ticket allocation.
But, I digress. The important thing here is the betting
. The Nations League, at very least, ensures a slightly more bettor-friendly calendar than was previously offered by England v San Marino, Germany v Guadeloupe & France v Narnia. The hope is, at least, that by playing opponents of a similar quality, we will be ensured teams fielding stronger sides, more global interest, and of course- more TV revenue.
Togetherness, Football, Eurovision
I shouldn't joke actually. After all, this isn't the first League of Nations that Europe has managed to put together. After the fallout of the 1st World War, one was put together to 'maintain the togetherness of Europe and uphold the Treaty of Versailles'. In spectacular form, America waded in, dissolved the whole thing and told them we couldn't play if they weren't invited. Luckily nothing bad happened in Europe after that, so I guess we didn't really need it after all.
However, my genuine wish for the Nations League is that it becomes the Eurovision Song Contest of football tournaments. Sod it, invite Australia along for the ride. Get Graham Norton in the commentary box. "Great effort there by Young, penetrating deep inside the box..." (insert whatever you like here really, the script writes itself), and I want each game opened by a 'welcome video' for each nation, a la Eurovision, ideally directed by the manager and acted by the starting 11, if only to see Gareth Southgate's take on 'This Is England' starring Jordan Pickford as the mouthy little mod and Harry Maguire ruining someone’s life by attacking them with that slab of a forehead. Now that's entertainment folks.
So there we have it. Tune into Sky Sports later for Wales taking on Ireland in a match that probably won't see two qualifying nations, and Gibraltar v Macedonia, which may well see at least one. What a world.