UEFA members have unanimously backed a move for a new Nations League tournament to replace international friendlies starting in 2018. Ireland are likely to face the likes of Croatia and Sweden but with the incentive of promotion to face the continent’s top sides.
The new competition, due to begin in September 2018, will also provide four qualifying spots for Euro 2020.
The Nations League, approved at UEFA’s annual congress in Astana, Kazakhstan, will replace most international friendly fixtures, with pool matches played between September and November 2018 and the ‘final four’ competition for each division played in 2019.
There will be promotion and relegation between divisions. The competitive element is designed to eradicate the ‘meaningless friendly’ label with the prospect of advancing to face the top nations, and the financial incentives that would bring.
Based on a current ranking, Ireland are likely to be based in a division alongside the likes of Denmark, Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Sweden, Ukraine and Switzerland.
While matches will be played on dates reserved for friendlies, countries will still be free to play games against national sides from outside Europe, on other days, allowing for ‘glamour friendlies’ against South American opposition for example.
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