Nations League draw interrupts countdown to Euro 2020

UEFA Nations League (Getty Images)
UEFA Nations League (Getty Images)

Amsterdam - The start of Euro 2020 is just over 100 days away, but this week Europe's leading national teams will take some time out from their tournament preparations as the draw for the next UEFA Nations League takes place in Amsterdam.

England's Gareth Southgate and France's Didier Deschamps will be among the coaches from around the continent descending on the Dutch capital despite the growing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, with the Netherlands among the many European countries to have reported cases.

European football's governing body has said that "it is not necessary to modify anything in the planned calendar" ahead of the start of the Euro in Italy -- the continent's worst affected country - on June 12, and its Executive Committee is set to meet in Amsterdam on Monday before a Congress on Tuesday and the Nations League draw from 18:00 (1700 GMT) the same day.

The show goes on, for now anyway, even as top-tier games in Italy were postponed over the weekend and France said it would ban gatherings of 5,000 people or more in an attempt to contain the spread.

The introduction of the Nations League after the last World Cup in 2018 was initially met with some scepticism, with many wondering how exactly it was possible to shoehorn yet another competition into an already crowded calendar.

However, the tournament essentially replaced meaningless friendlies with competitive games between national teams of a comparable level.

Portugal the holders

Time may have been required to get to grips with the format, but ultimately the inaugural competition proved a breath of fresh air and concluded with Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal hosting and winning the finals in June 2019, beating the Netherlands 1-0 in the decider.

"The intensity in the groups was really high and the idea to organise the Nations League was a perfect one," said Dutch coach Ronald Koeman after that game. "We are looking forward to the next one."

This summer will see Portugal defend the European Championship trophy they won in France four years ago, although they have been drawn in an extremely difficult group along with the French, the World Cup holders, and Germany.

Those three nations will all be in Nations League A but are all in separate pots, so they could again come out in the same group, with matches to be played between September and November before the finals next year.

After finishing third last time around, England are among the top seeds for the draw in Amsterdam.

Southgate's side - who are determined to make a big impression at the Euro with the semi-finals and final being played at Wembley - will definitely come up against one of Belgium, Spain, France or Italy, while Germany are potential opponents too.

Southgate will be at the ceremony after attending Everton's Premier League draw with Manchester United on Sunday to monitor the performance of, amongst others, Jordan Pickford.

The Toffees goalkeeper's form has dipped recently and his place in the England team could come under threat ahead of the Euro, with friendly matches scheduled to come at home to Italy and Denmark later this month.

Further down, Scotland have been promoted to League B after their strong showing in the last competition, and they could be thrown into a group together with Wales and either Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland.

They could also again face Israel, with whom they were drawn in the last tournament and who they are due to again meet in the Nations League play-off semi-finals in Glasgow on March 26 needing to win to keep their hopes of making the Euro alive.

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