A Solution to Dissolution: If the UEFA Nations League Began in 1998

Part 0 - Timeline Introduction
A SOLUTION TO DISSOLUTION
If the UEFA Nations League Began in 1998
By NTF aka Seb

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, UEFA sees the need to launch another international tournament to “meet the increased demands of this expanded European national team landscape”. This was officially decided on 28 April 1994 at the UEFA Congress held in Vienna. However, the competition had previously been discussed at the preceding Congress hosted by Gothenburg two years prior, so it didn’t come as a massive and unwelcome surprise to UEFA’s member associations. The first tournament was to begin in September 1998, after the 1998 FIFA World Cup. This meant that UEFA Euro 2000 qualifying would begin in March 1999. The competition largely replaced the international friendly matches previously played on the FIFA International Match Calendar with more competitive matches.

unl 1998-99 matchday schedule.png


The concept of the UEFA Nations League would see all of UEFA's member associations' national teams divided into a series of groups based upon a ranking formulated using their recent results, where they would be promoted and relegated to other groups according to their results within the group. At the 1994 Congress, UEFA expressed that its eligible members (48 at the time) would be divided into three divisions (called leagues). Each league was to contain 16 teams and be divided into four groups of four teams. However, by 1998, two new associations had joined UEFA: Andorra and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also, FR Yugoslavia made a return following its suspension due to UN sanctions. This means there were now 51 eligible participants, forcing UEFA's Executive Committee to have an emergency meeting to slightly overhaul the format. A fourth division was introduced: League D. It was to contain the four teams with the lowest coefficient when the draw was conducted. This meant that League C would contain 15 teams instead of the originally planned 16. As a result, one of its groups would have to consist of just three teams. League B and League A remained unchanged.

unl 1998 seeding.png

Teams seeded ahead of the league phase draw.

To determine the leagues, UEFA implemented the same seeding they had used for UEFA Euro 2000 qualifying. The seedings were decided on a team's points per game in the qualifiers for UEFA Euro 1996 and the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Because France qualified automatically as hosts for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, the coefficient only factored in their UEFA Euro 1996 qualifying record. Comparably, the coefficient only considered the 1998 FIFA World Cup qualification record for England, FR Yugoslavia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Belgium and the Netherlands were to host Euro 2000 and thus not visible on the original seedings. As a result, they were retroactively added when the Nations League draw was conducted. The draw for the league phase took place at the Congress Center in Basel, Switzerland on 21 January 1998, 12:00 CET.


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Welcome to my new timeline! I've had this idea for several months now, but lacked the wherewithal to do - until now. I feel like I can do it justice with the knowledge I've obtained during my time here, and also working on my early Euro expansion TL. Speaking of which, threat not. I won't quit that.

Stay tuned for the next part where the groups will be drawn!
 
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Part 1 - Cause for Concern and Celebration
Part 1 - A Cause for Concern and Celebration
1998-99 season: Group phase draw

As League D only contained four teams, they were all placed in the same group. The winner and runner-up of which would qualify for the interleague play-offs along with the four bottom-placed teams from League C. Following the completion of those play-offs, the identity of the two teams that were to be relegated and promoted respectively would be known.

League C contained 15 nations, which meant one group would have to contain one less team than the others. This was not without controversy. Some people argued it meant the teams placed in Group C4 "risked giving an undeserving team a potentially easier way to promotion". However, the draw was conducted in a way so a Pot 1 team was guaranteed to be placed in the three-team group to mitigate that risk. League B was largely exempt from debate, even though many people thought Group B3 was "unworthy to be in such a high division", excluding the powerful Czechs.

League A was the most controversial one. Group A1 was staggeringly competitive, whereas all the other groups were vastly weaker despite also containing solid sides. Also, given the recent war, the upcoming clash between FR Yugoslavia and Croatia was another cause for concern.

League D
Group D1
nations league d 1998-99.png



Interleague play-offs
nations league interleague playoffs.png



League C
nations league c 1998-99.png



League B
nations league b 1998-99.png



League A
nations league a 1998-99.png


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That's it. Draw completed! Let me know your thoughts on the group as well as potential predictions. I'd love to hear it.

Stay tuned for the next part when League D and C will conclude!
 
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Oof, you weren't kidding about that Group of Death! I'm guessing Germany would be relegated there given how poor they were around this time. England probably wouldn't do that well either given their Euro 2000 qualifying struggles.

Scotland should stay up hopefully, given that Bulgaria were past their best by then.
 
Nice, there aren't enough TLs about football (the real one, not that egg-kick-thing) on this site! I'm also pretty sure Germany would get relegated, since the team at this point was pretty bad.
 
football (the real one, not that egg-kick-thing)
Friendly Reminder it is called football because it was played on feet, ie it wasn't a equestrian sport, heck the real football was like a mob rugby to begin with, the name is association football to make it clear.
 
Oof, you weren't kidding about that Group of Death! I'm guessing Germany would be relegated there given how poor they were around this time. England probably wouldn't do that well either given their Euro 2000 qualifying struggles.

Scotland should stay up hopefully, given that Bulgaria were past their best by then.
Yeah, the group is kinda crazy. But still realistic given that UEFA would've almost certainly used those coefficients to seed teams. It would've raised eyebrows, though.
 
Part 2 - Zlatko Zahovič Masterclass, Minnows Malta Reach New Heights
Part 2 - Zlatko Zahovič Masterclass, Minnows Malta Reach New Heights
1998-99 Season: Leagues D to C and the interleague play-offs


League D
Malta and Liechtenstein advanced to the interleague-play-offs, with Andorra not too far behind them. San Marino proved to be a minnow even among minnows, despite picking up historical points.

nations league d standings 1998-99.png

Matches
San Marino 1-1 Andorra
Malta 2-0 Liechtenstein
Andorra 1-0 Liechtenstein
San Marino 1-2 Malta
Andorra 0-1 Malta
Liechtenstein 2-0 San Marino
Liechtenstein 1-0 Andorra
Malta 2-0 San Marino
San Marino 0-0 Liechtenstein
Malta 1-1 Andorra
Andorra 1-0 San Marino
Liechtenstein 2-1 Malta


League C
After a disappointing opening loss against Cyprus, Wales ultimately topped Group C1 quite comfortably, boasting the highest goal tally of any team in the division. The Cypriots still held their heads high, though. The same could not be said about Azerbaijan, who suffered an unexpected defeat to Luxembourg on matchday one. However, the Azeris did manage to stay up. Luxembourg was proud of their upset against Azerbaijan (and draw with Cyprus), but still finished last and were headed for the interleague play-offs.

The big talking point of Group C2 was the Balkan derby between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovenia. One that the latter won largely due to the heroics of Zlatko Zahovič, but also because of their general quality and discipline. It was a deserved achievement, as was the Bosniaks' second-place finish. Estonia failed to be a serious top spot contender, even though they scored an impressive 10 goals and enjoyed a 5-0 demolition of the Faroe Islands, who finished last in accordance with pretty much everyone's expectations. A notable highlight was their spectacular 2-2 draw against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Group C3 was widely regarded as the 'group of death' of this Nations League division. It was a really close one that Iceland ultimately won with a small goal tally of just four. However, what they lacked in offense they made up for in defense and discipline. Moldova finished last despite only losing a single match, but they just couldn't find the decisive goals and were punished for it.

Latvia soared through Group C4 with relative ease, and Belarus comfortably avoided the interleague play-offs. The same could not be said about Armenia, who couldn't find the back of the net a single time and lost all matches except one.

nations league c1 1998-99.png

Matches
Luxembourg 2-1 Azerbaijan
Cyprus 3-2 Wales
Azerbaijan 1-2 Wales
Luxembourg 0-0 Cyprus
Azerbaijan 2-1 Cyprus
Wales 3-0 Luxembourg
Wales 3-0 Azerbaijan
Cyprus 2-0 Luxembourg
Luxembourg 1-2 Wales
Cyprus 2-0 Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan 2-1 Luxembourg
Wales 1-1 Cyprus


nations league c2 1998-99.png

Matches
Faroe Islands 0-2 Estonia
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-1 Slovenia
Estonia 1-2 Slovenia
Faroe Islands 2-2 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Estonia 1-4 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Slovenia 1-0 Faroe Islands
Slovenia 1-0 Estonia
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-0 Faroe Islands
Faroe Islands 1-1 Slovenia
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-1 Estonia
Estonia 5-0 Faroe Islands
Slovenia 2-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina


nations league c3 1998-99.png

Matches
Albania 2-2 Moldova
Macedonia 1-0 Iceland
Moldova 0-0 Iceland
Albania 2-0 Macedonia
Moldova 1-1 Macedonia
Iceland 1-0 Albania
Iceland 1-0 Moldova
Macedonia 1-0 Albania
Albania 1-1 Iceland
Macedonia 2-2 Moldova
Moldova 0-0 Albania
Iceland 1-0 Macedonia


nations league c4 1998-99.png

Matches
Latvia 0-0 Belarus
Armenia 0-2 Latvia
Belarus 1-0 Armenia
Latvia 1-0 Armenia
Armenia 0-0 Belarus
Belarus 1-2 Latvia


Interleague play-offs
In the interleague play-offs, the four bottom-placed teams from League C face off against each other in the first round. The losers of those matches have to play against the winner and runner-up from League D in the second round to determine who will be relegated and who will be promoted. All matches were single fixtures, with the host being decided by a draw, which was somewhat controversial since it gave a pretty noteworthy advantage to one of the teams.

Moldova enjoyed a boring but comfortable 1-0 win against Armenia in Chișinău. As did the Faroe Islands at Luxembourg, but not with nearly as much comfort. The match seemed destined for a penalty shootout until the Cypriotic referee pointed toward the penalty spot in the 89th minute. John Petersen was ice cold from eleven meters and made sure the Faroe Islands would remain in League C. Luxembourg's struggles persisted, losing away against Malta in the second round. The Maltese had made history by reaching League C. Many people believed that the interleague play-offs "made it essentially impossible for the microstates of League D to be promoted". Malta proved them wrong. Armenia lived up to the sentiment by enjoying a routine win versus Liechtenstein in Vaduz.

Interleague play-offs.png



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Finally back with another part. I realize most of you are just waiting for League A and the Finals, but hopefully you can find some enjoyment in these lower divisions as well.

Stay tuned for the next part when League B and A will conclude! Possibly including the Nations League Finals, but I haven't entirely decided yet. It depends on if the image limit will allow me.
 
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Part 3 - Anything Can Happen
Part 3 - Anything Can Happen
1998-99 Season: Leagues B to A and the inaugural Nations League Finals


League B
Sweden's consistent solidity granted them a top spot finish by a pretty big margin, participating in some close encounters and enjoying the best defensive record in the division. The recently independent Ukraine clinched a respectable runners-up position and relished in the emergence of a certain Andriy Shevchenko, whose 93rd-minute long-distance strike that hit the bar against Sweden nearly granted the Ukrainians a win in Kyiv. Greece avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth, scoring just one (!) goal. However, their defending, although boring at times, proved to be vital, while Hungary proved to be a cut below League B's standards.

Belgium was to co-host the upcoming European Championship and was eager to make a name for themselves ahead of the competition, perhaps rejuvenating another golden generation like that of the 80s. To an extent, they did just that by securing promotion from a tricky group. Poland and Switzerland enjoyed decent campaigns, but were marginally weaker than the Belgians, despite the Swiss victory in Zürich. Slovakia failed to pose a real threat, even though most of their matches, including the losses, were respectable.

People had high expectations of the Czech Republic in a group widely regarded to be child's play. Not only did the Czechs live up to the hype, but they also surpassed it by convincingly winning every single match, making it obvious they belong in the premier division. Second-placed Finland could not even obtain half the points as the mighty Czechs, and Lithuania lost 4-0 in Vilnius. Georgia's campaign was even more forgetful, acquiring a measly two points and finishing last.

Israel caused many jaws to drop with their opening performances, hammering both Northern Ireland and Turkey. This success proved to be temporary, though, as the Israelis dropped points in their subsequent matches and ultimately finished behind Turkey. A good showing by Israel, but still disappointing considering how good they initially were. A young Yossi Benayoun was especially disappointed, laying on the ground after Turkey secured promotion on the final matchday. One player who was not disappointed was Hakan Şükür, whose magisterial displays were instrumental in Turkey's success. Many people had predicted the Republic of Ireland to top the group, only to be let down. The usual Irish discipline and work ethic was there, but they suffered from an inability to just find the winning goal. Roy Keane arguably suffered the most, offering a couple of heroic performances to no avail. A young Robbie Keane showed promise, but it wasn't enough. No "luck of the Irish" this time around, at least for the Republic. The same can't be said about their neighbors to the north. Despite being relegated, Northern Ireland's sensational win in Dublin caused mayhem, with fans famously storming the field in celebration, similarly to when Scotland defeated England at Wembley in 1977.


Group B1
nations league b1 1998-99.png

Matches
Ukraine 3-2 Hungary
Greece 0-1 Sweden
Hungary 0-1 Sweden
Ukraine 1-0 Greece
Hungary 0-0 Greece
Sweden 2-1 Ukraine
Sweden 1-0 Hungary
Greece 0-0 Ukraine
Ukraine 0-0 Sweden
Greece 1-0 Hungary
Hungary 1-1 Ukraine
Sweden 2-0 Greece


Group B2
nations league b2 real 1998-99.png

Matches
Slovakia 1-3 Poland
Belgium 2-1 Switzerland
Poland 0-0 Switzerland
Slovakia 1-1 Belgium
Poland 1-1 Belgium
Switzerland 1-0 Slovakia
Switzerland 1-1 Poland
Belgium 1-0 Slovakia
Slovakia 0-0 Switzerland
Belgium 1-0 Poland
Poland 2-0 Slovakia
Switzerland 3-2 Belgium


Group B3
nations league b3 1998-99.png

Matches
Finland 1-0 Georgia
Czech Republic 2-0 Lithuania
Georgia 1-1 Lithuania
Finland 1-3 Czech Republic
Georgia 1-2 Czech Republic
Lithuania 0-0 Finland
Lithuania 1-0 Georgia
Czech Republic 3-2 Finland
Finland 2-1 Lithuania
Czech Republic 2-0 Georgia
Georgia 1-1 Finland
Lithuania 0-4 Czech Republic


Group B4
nations league b4 1998-99.png

Matches
Israel 4-1 Northern Ireland
Turkey 0-0 Republic of Ireland
Northern Ireland 1-1 Republic of Ireland
Israel 4-0 Turkey
Northern Ireland 0-3 Turkey
Republic of Ireland 2-0 Israel
Republic of Ireland 0-1 Northern Ireland
Turkey 2-0 Israel
Israel 1-1 Republic of Ireland
Turkey 3-0 Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland 1-1 Israel
Republic of Ireland 1-1 Turkey



League A
Excluding a couple of goalless draws, the 'group of death' lived up to the expectations, at least in the sense of offering memorable matches. However, few would've expected Portugal, who failed to qualify for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, to top it. They blessed the world of football with many memorable triumphs, the most spectacular of which came at home against Germany and England. Regardless, their opening away win against the Netherlands proved to be the most crucial in the long run. The Dutch were solid and finished as runners-up, yet disappointed as they had their eyes on the Finals. It was good, but not good enough for a team who finished fourth at a World Cup less than a year prior. England was neither successful nor disastrous, managing to avoid relegation from such a competitive group. Nevertheless, given their triumph over long-time rivals Germany and somewhat sensational 3-0 win over Portugal, most English fans viewed it as more of a "success" than a "disaster". In contrast, "disaster" perfectly summed up Germany's season. The only win Die Mannschaft could manage was at home to an England team that was already sure to avoid relegation.

In accordance with the predictions of most people, Spain won Group A2. Even so, it's unlikely many people anticipated La Roja's staggering 9-0 (!) win over Austria. It made the Austrians' earlier 5-0 loss against FR Yugoslavia not seem so bad in hindsight. Needless to say, Austria's catastrophe sent their FA into a crisis. Many people thought the matches between FR Yugoslavia and Croatia could be catastrophic, given the recent war. These fears proved to be unwarranted, as players and fans of both teams showed great respect and passion for the game. The former of the two finished in second place after inflicting Spain their sole loss. Croatia can also hold their head up high, though.

In Group A3, reigning world champions France faced stern competition from Romania's golden generation. Competition so stern that a "photo finish" was required. Or "tiebreakers", as it's called in the world of football. In this particular case, the tiebreakers were highly controversial. France had a superior goal difference and scored more goals, but it was still Romania who qualified for the Finals thanks to Viorel Moldovan's equalizer in Paris. Nevertheless, all teams are aware of the tiebreakers before the season begins and Romania played really well. The same can't be said about their southern neighbors, Bulgaria, who only obtained a single point. Scotland did enough to remain in League A, defeating Bulgaria at Hampden Park and holding them to a draw in Sofia.

There's no better or more articulate way to put it: Group A4 was crazy. Everyone seemed to beat everyone. Norway impressively defeated Denmark home and away. A Danish side that shockingly put three goals past Italy in Naples. Denmark also lost at home to Russia, only to win against them in Moscow a few months later. A team that couldn't accomplish that was the eventual group winners Norway, who made up the opposition in Russia's two draws. Meanwhile, Italy defeated the Russians twice. When all was said and done, Norway's golden generation sensationally topped the group, largely thanks to their narrow but deserved win against the Azzurri in Oslo. Ole Gunnar Solskjær's well-placed finish in the 77th minute sent Norway into delirium.


Group A1
nations league a1 1998-99.png

Matches
Netherlands 0-1 Portugal
England 1-0 Germany
Portugal 3-0 Germany
Netherlands 3-2 England
Portugal 3-2 England
Germany 1-1 Netherlands
Germany 1-1 Portugal
England 0-0 Netherlands
Netherlands 2-1 Germany
England 3-0 Portugal
Portugal 0-0 Netherlands
Germany 2-1 England


Group A2
nations league a2 1998-99.png

Matches
Croatia 1-0 Austria
Spain 2-0 FR Yugoslavia
Austria 1-2 FR Yugoslavia
Croatia 0-0 Spain
Austria 1-2 Spain
FR Yugoslavia 0-0 Croatia
FR Yugoslavia 5-0 Austria
Spain 3-1 Croatia
Croatia 2-2 FR Yugoslavia
Spain 9-0 Austria
Austria 1-2 Croatia
FR Yugoslavia 3-2 Spain


Group A3
nations league a3 1998-99.png

Matches
Bulgaria 0-3 France
Romania 1-0 Scotland
France 2-1 Scotland
Bulgaria 0-1 Romania
France 1-1 Romania
Scotland 1-0 Bulgaria
Scotland 0-2 France
Romania 1-0 Bulgaria
Bulgaria 1-1 Scotland
Romania 0-0 France
France 1-0 Bulgaria
Scotland 1-2 Romania


Group A4
nations league a4 1998-99.png

Matches
Norway 2-1 Denmark
Russia 0-1 Italy
Denmark 1-2 Italy
Norway 2-2 Russia
Denmark 2-3 Russia
Italy 0-0 Norway
Italy 2-3 Denmark
Russia 1-1 Norway
Norway 1-0 Italy
Russia 1-2 Denmark
Denmark 0-2 Norway
Italy 1-0 Russia



1999 UEFA Nations League Finals
As the host nation was required to participate in the Nations League Finals, the bidding process didn't begin until 21 November 1998 when the group phase was concluded. All participants launched bids, but Norway and Romania were quickly rejected in favor of Portugal and Spain. This was especially interesting since the two Iberian countries simultaneously ran bids to host UEFA Euro 2004. The Portuguese bid ultimately ran supreme, just like it would do a few months later when it came to hosting Euro 2004. High-profile journalists understood that as Portugal was already favored to host the upcoming Euros, the UEFA Executive Committee was keen on seeing them host a smaller competition as a "sample" to be sure the right selection was made. The 1999 Finals were played in Porto and Guimarães from 5 to 9 June.

The semi-final pairings were decided by an open draw, with hosts Portugal being drawn against Romania and Norway having to face off versus Spain. Several cocky fans "jokingly" said UEFA should skip the semi-finals and just move directly to the final between Portugal and Spain. However, the fans, like everyone, would have to wait and see. Portugal started off energetically against Romania, but as the opening 20 and eventually 30 minutes passed, it seemed the match had reached a stalemate. Half-time came and went, and the stalemate could still not be broken. Portugal were better on paper and had more than enough tools to score at least one goal, but Romania handled them in an excellent manner, occasionally managing dangerous counter-attacks. As Portugal mounted a last-ditch effort to spare the match from extra time, Romania began such an attack. The ball quickly found its way to Dorinel Munteanu, whose low, hard and well-placed strike from just outside the penalty area sensationally gave Romania a place in the final. Complete silence in Porto, excluding the euphoric Romanian away fans.

"Golden opportunity for Spain to clinch Nations League title", or other things of that nature, was a very common headline following Portugal's exit. The only thing standing in Spain's way was Norway. This semi-final started off like the last one, with the Spaniards dominating early and the Norwegians working hard and defending resolutely until the initial onslaught is over. It was still goalless and the match slowed down. One can only imagine what the Norwegian players are thinking about. Maybe their historic struggles; their "inferiority to their big brothers, Denmark and Sweden". Or maybe the fact that they're a team that beat Brazil less than a year earlier. That this is their 'golden generation' and time to shine. Either way, in the 74th minute, Norway wins a free-kick from quite far out. The pass into the penalty area is distinct, but not as distinct as Steffen Iversen's header. Norway 1, Spain 0. A deadlock that could not be broken, despite seemingly relentless Spanish attempts. The semi-finals set up an arguably embarrassing third place play-off between Portugal and Spain. Hell, this was supposed to be the final. Portugal ultimately won it 1-0 thanks to Rui Costa. In the end, a great achievement by Portugal, who weren't even expected to make it out of their group. But everyone was still eagerly awaiting the final.

Unfortunately, but perhaps understandably, it was a boring final. Two underdogs, not knowing if they'll ever have the opportunity to win such a title again. Few risks, even fewer attempts on goal. The 90 minutes came and went, as did extra time. It wasn't Romania's first penalty shootout at a major tournament. At the 1990 World Cup, they were eliminated by the Republic of Ireland. Four years later, Sweden denied them a place in the semi-finals. Perhaps all the agony was a blessing in disguise that had given Romania crucial experience, because this time they were emphatic from eleven metres. Norway folded under the pressure. Only Kjetil Rekdal, who scored the winning penalty against Brazil at France '98, could find the back of the net. Romania, inaugural UEFA Nations League champions.

nations league finals 1999.png


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That concludes the first Nations League season (of many to come) of this timeline. I hope you enjoyed it! Let me know what you think.
 
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Part 4 - Refreshing Groups
Part 4 - Refreshing Groups
2000-01 Season: Introduction and Group Phase Draw

The 2000-01 UEFA Nations League was the second edition of the tournament. Romania was the defending champion. The previous season's format was maintained, with group phase matches being played from September to November 2000 and the Nations League Finals taking place in June 2001. The tiebreakers also remained unchanged, despite the preceding season’s France-Romania controversy, as did the interleague play-offs that were to be played in March 2001.

Tiebreakers

If two or more teams finished level on points after completion of the group matches, the following tie-breakers were used to determine the final ranking:
  1. Higher number of points obtained in the matches played among the teams in question;
  2. Superior goal difference in matches played among the teams in question;
  3. Higher number of goals scored away from home in the matches played among the teams in question;
  4. Superior goal difference in all group matches;
  5. Higher number of goals scored in all group matches;
  6. Higher number of away goals scored in all group matches;
  7. Fair play conduct in all group matches (1 point for a single yellow card, 3 points for a red card as a consequence of two yellow cards, 3 points for a direct red card, 4 points for a yellow card followed by a direct red card).

To limit and mitigate potential unaccounted tendencies or biases associated with the matchday schedule, UEFA changed the order of the matchups, which would be done for every new season of the competition.

nations league 2000-01 schedule.png


Last season Austria, Bulgaria, Germany and Russia were relegated from League A while Belgium, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Turkey were promoted from League B. Georgia, Hungary, Northern Ireland and Slovakia were relegated from League B while Iceland, Latvia, Slovenia and Wales were promoted from League C. Following the interleague play-offs, Luxembourg was relegated from League C while Malta was promoted from League D. Just like last season, the host of the Finals would not be decided until after the group phase when the identity of the group winners was known, but England, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain expressed interest in bidding should they qualify. To determine the seeding for the group phase draw, the Nations League overall ranking was used. Group position had priority over points obtained, meaning France (14 points) was ranked lower than Portugal (11 points) because the Portuguese reached the Finals while the French finished as runners-up in their group. This was one of several such examples. While it raised some eyebrows, it wasn't enough to warrant any serious debates or controversies. Additionally, the rankings only factored in points obtained in the group phase, but still ranked the top four teams according to how they performed in the Finals. The draw was made in December 1999 in Nyon, Switzerland.

nations league seeding 2000-01.png


As League D only had enough teams for one group, they were simply placed in it according to their seed. League C saw some interesting constellations. Group C2 in particular was considered very competitive by the division standard. In League B, Germany would undoubtedly have their eyes set on being promoted back up while the division's new arrivals would be fighting for survival, some with better chances than others. League A would see Romania trying to mount a successful title defense. Also, while the premier division didn't have a clear 'group of death' this time, the groups were more equally competitive, which was refreshing.


League D
nations league d 2000-01.png



Interleague play-offs
nations league interleague playoffs.png



League C
nations league c 2000-01.png



League B
nations league b 2000-01 REAL.png



League A
nations league a 2000-01.png


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That's it. Draw and introduction of the second season completed! Let me know your thoughts on the group as well as potential predictions, or any other thoughts regarding the timeline. I'd love to hear it.

Stay tuned for the next part when League D to C and the interleague play-offs will conclude!
 
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Part 5 - Historic Matches and History Repeating Itself
Part 5 - Historic Matches and History Repeating Itself
2000-01 Season: Leagues D to C and the interleague play-offs


League D
Luxembourg, who were relegated last season and favorites to top the group, advanced to the interleague play-offs along with an Andorran side that exceeded expectations. The matches last season had been more entertaining. This one saw fewer goals; many 1-0 wins and three goalless draws. However, history was made as San Marino won their first competitive match ever.

nations league d standings 2000-01.png

Matches
Liechtenstein 1-0 Andorra
Luxembourg 1-1 San Marino
Andorra 2-1 San Marino
Luxembourg 1-0 Liechtenstein
Andorra 1-0 Luxembourg
San Marino 0-0 Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein 0-0 Luxembourg
San Marino 0-1 Andorra
Luxembourg 1-1 Andorra
Liechtenstein 0-1 San Marino
Andorra 0-0 Liechtenstein
San Marino 0-1 Luxembourg



League C
After being relegated last season, Georgia were promoted back up to League B with relative ease, going undefeated. Runners-up Macedonia would've also been undefeated had it not been for their loss against Albania, who finished third. The Faroe Islands once again found themselves with two points and a ticket to the interleague play-offs. One positive is that they picked up another exciting 2-2 draw, just like last season.

Similarly to Georgia, Slovakia were also promoted quite easily, having been relegated in the previous season. Their crowning moment came on the final matchday where they decimated Armenia 5-0 in Yerevan. The Armenians would have to settle for a third-place finish behind Estonia, the team who inflicted Slovakia their sole loss. Moldova had to hope for the best in the interleague play-offs, where they also were in the preceding season.

Northern Ireland was the big disappointment of the division. Having been narrowly relegated from League B last season, few would've expected them to be so poor, finishing in third with a five-point gap. They were hardly ever in the race for promotion. Bosnia and Herzegovina lead that race for a long time, chased by Belarus. It would all be decided on the final matchday. Belarus didn't just have to win against Bosnia, they had to do it by more than one goal. However, that's exactly what happened. The Belarussians played a historically good match, sensationally winning 4-1 in what became known as the Miracle of Minsk. Minnows Malta finished last without scoring a single goal.

Hungary were initially disappointing, dropping points in their two opening matches, but their superb 6-1 away win against Cyprus put all doubt aside. The Magyars rounded off a successful Nations League campaign with a 3-0 triumph over Azerbaijan, whose home win against Cyprus made sure it would be the Cypriots that headed to the interleague play-offs.

nations league c1 2000-01.png

Matches
Macedonia 1-0 Albania
Georgia 2-0 Faroe Islands
Albania 2-0 Faroe Islands
Georgia 1-1 Macedonia
Albania 0-1 Georgia
Faroe Islands 2-2 Macedonia
Macedonia 1-1 Georgia
Faroe Islands 1-1 Albania
Georgia 3-1 Albania
Macedonia 3-0 Faroe Islands
Albania 2-0 Macedonia
Faroe Islands 0-4 Georgia


nations league c2 2000-01.png

Matches
Estonia 1-0 Moldova
Slovakia 2-0 Armenia
Moldova 0-0 Armenia
Slovakia 3-1 Estonia
Moldova 0-1 Slovakia
Armenia 2-2 Estonia
Estonia 2-0 Slovakia
Armenia 2-1 Moldova
Slovakia 4-2 Moldova
Estonia 0-0 Armenia
Moldova 0-0 Estonia
Armenia 0-5 Slovakia


nations league c3 2000-01.png

Matches
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-0 Belarus
Northern Ireland 1-0 Malta
Belarus 2-0 Malta
Northern Ireland 1-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Belarus 2-1 Northern Ireland
Malta 0-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-1 Northern Ireland
Malta 0-1 Belarus
Northern ireland 0-0 Belarus
Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-0 Malta
Belarus 4-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Malta 0-1 Northern Ireland


nations league c4 2000-01.png

Matches
Cyprus 1-0 Azerbaijan
Hungary 1-1 Cyprus
Azerbaijan 1-1 Hungary
Cyprus 1-6 Hungary
Hungary 3-0 Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan 2-0 Cyprus


Interleague play-offs
Overall, the format was the same as last season. The only difference being that the League D teams would always have home advantage in the second round from now on. UEFA argued that "it's fairer if League D teams play at home since they actually accomplished something by reaching the interleague play-offs, whereas the League C teams reach that stage due to losing". To quote the Executive Committee even more concisely: "UEFA wants to reward success, not failure". The decision resulted in mild controversy, but nothing too serious, especially since both League D teams lost on home turf in the second round.

When it comes to the first round, Cyprus ultimately defeated Malta in Nicosia despite the visitors' goal in the sixth minute. Moldova's triumph against the Faroe Islands was even more comfortable, scoring once in each half before conceding a Faroese consolation goal in the dying minutes of added time. History repeated itself in the second round, with Malta defeating Luxembourg 1-0 just like in the preceding interleague play-offs. This time they didn't even need home advantage. Neither did the Faroe Islands, who mounted a respectable comeback away against Andorra. Then the smoke settled. No teams relegated from League C. No teams promoted from League D.

interleague play-offs 2000-01.png


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Back with another part. Again, I realize most of you might just be waiting for League A and the Finals, but hopefully you can find some enjoyment in these lower divisions as well.

Stay tuned for the next part when Leagues B to A and the 2001 Nations League Finals will conclude!
 
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Part 6 - Cinderella Stories and a 'Real' Champion New
Part 6 - Cinderella Stories and a 'Real' Champion
2000-01 Season: Leagues B to A and the second Nations League Finals

League B
Germany were comfortably promoted back up to League A, but given the high standards their fans have of them, Die Mannschaft's campaign was still largely considered to be pretty underwhelming since they dropped points against Slovenia and Israel on the two final matchdays. The Germans were somewhat disappointed, but not as disappointed as the Greeks, who were unexpectedly relegated. Following the debacle, Otto Rehhagel was appointed manager for them. Newly promoted Slovenia exceeded expectations by finishing second with a solid margin, Zlatko Zahovič enjoying another good season. Slovenia picked up an impressive draw against Germany in Gelsenkirchen. Israel did enough to avoid relegation, notably holding the Germans to a draw on home soil.

Russia ultimately narrowly topped Group B2 after some solid performances. Poland were more consistent, but their initial inability to clinch wins cost them a promotion spot. The group notably saw a spectacular 3-3 draw between Russia and Poland. The Nations League again saw a tiebreaker dispute when Switzerland finished ahead of Iceland despite the latter having a superior goal difference, similar to the France-Romania controversy of the preceding season. It didn't lead to any change. Switzerland's campaign bordered on disastrous, twice losing 4-0 and avoiding relegation by the skin of their teeth. Especially disappointing since they picked up a solid nine points in 1998-99. Switzerland's only saving grace was their close win over Iceland in Zürich. On the final matchday, Iceland sensationally inflicted winners Russia their sole loss, but it was ultimately irrelevant because of the tiebreakers.

Having barely avoided relegation last season, the Republic of Ireland experienced great success now, comfortably topping the group and only conceding thrice. Runners-up Ukraine matched that defensive record, but couldn't find the back of the net as much. Neither could Bulgaria, who were previously relegated from the premier division. Now they finished third in their League B group. Latvia was unquestionably the weakest of the four, illustrated by their point tally of zero and the fact that they conceded as many goals as the rest of the teams in the group combined. Contrastingly, but also similarly, that was true for the Irish when it comes to their goals scored.

Finland was the division's happy surprise, somewhat sensationally winning all but one match, most notably over Austria and decimating Lithuania 5-1 away. Having been relegated from League A last season, the Austrians were disappointed to not get back up. Wales were pretty underwhelming but still did enough to avoid relegation, unlike Lithuania who were relegated with just a single point.

nations league b1 2000-01.png

Matches
Greece 1-1 Slovenia
Germany 1-0 Israel
Slovenia 2-1 Israel
Greece 2-4 Germany
Slovenia 0-1 Germany
Israel 1-0 Greece
Israel 1-1 Slovenia
Germany 2-0 Greece
Greece 0-0 Israel
Germany 0-0 Slovenia
Slovenia 2-2 Greece
Israel 1-1 Germany


nations league b2 2000-01.png

Matches
Poland 2-2 Switzerland
Russia 4-0 Iceland
Switzerland 1-0 Iceland
Russia 3-3 Poland
Switzerland 0-1 Russia
Iceland 1-1 Poland
Poland 1-1 Russia
Iceland 1-1 Switzerland
Russia 4-0 Switzerland
Poland 1-0 Iceland
Switzerland 0-4 Poland
Iceland 3-1 Russia


nations league b3 2000-01.png

Matches
Ukraine 1-2 Ireland
Bulgaria 2-1 Latvia
Ireland 3-1 Latvia
Bulgaria 0-1 Ukraine
Ireland 1-0 Bulgaria
Latvia 0-1 Ukraine
Ukraine 0-0 Bulgaria
Latvia 0-3 Ireland
Bulgaria 0-1 Ireland
Ukraine 1-0 Latvia
Ireland 1-1 Ukraine
Latvia 0-1 Bulgaria


nations league b4 2000-01.png

Matches
Finland 2-1 Lithuania
Austria 1-0 Wales
Lithuania 0-2 Wales
Austria 2-1 Finland
Lithuania 1-2 Austria
Wales 1-2 Finland
Finland 1-0 Austria
Wales 1-1 Lithuania
Austria 2-0 Lithuania
Finland 1-0 Wales
Lithuania 1-5 Finland
Wales 1-1 Austria



League A
Italy comfortably won the group without losing a single match, while runners-up Croatia also had a respectable campaign, despite often struggling to find the back of the net. They more than made up for it with their great defensive record, though. The Czech Republic were unexpectedly mediocre, but still did enough to avoid relegation, unlike the defending champions Romania, who were going down to League B.

Additionally, Group A2 saw the runners-up of the previous season, Norway, be relegated without obtaining a single point. Belgium comfortably avoided relegation, as did England. Having barely missed out on the 1999 Finals, France found redemption this season, securing their spot by defeating England at Wembley mere months before construction of the new stadium ensued.

Having won the 'group of death' last season, Portugal were now triumphant in one that was notably easier, albeit still tricky. Regardless, the Portuguese won all but one match and were once again heading to the Finals. The other three teams were quite even, illustrated by the many 1-1 draws. Hakan Şükür and the three goals he scored, including the last-second winner against Denmark, were instrumental in Turkey's success. For a while, it seemed Denmark would be relegated, but they picked up a crucial win against FR Yugoslavia in Copenhagen on the final matchday. Jon Dahl Tomasson became a hero with his late strike. FR Yugoslavia were close to reaching the Finals last season, making their 2000-01 failure even more disappointing.

Just like last season, no word better describes Group A4 than 'crazy'. Newly promoted Sweden sensationally won it, obtaining the exact same goal difference and points as runners-up the Netherlands. Still, the Swedish triumph in Solna made them reign supreme thanks to tiebreakers. The Dutch once again narrowly missed out on the Finals. Given that the Netherlands won home and away against Spain (costing them a place in the Finals), it was almost comical how they dropped points versus Scotland and Sweden to lose out on the first place. Scotland had a solid season, but the group was very tough and they just couldn't find the winning goals.

nations league a1 2000-01.png

Matches
Italy 1-0 Croatia
Romania 2-1 Czech Republic
Croatia 1-0 Czech Republic
Romania 0-2 Italy
Croatia 1-1 Romania
Czech Republic 2-2 Italy
Italy 3-0 Romania
Czech Republic 0-0 Croatia
Romania 0-1 Croatia
Italy 2-0 Czech Republic
Croatia 0-0 Italy
Czech Republic 1-0 Romania


nations league a2 2000-01.png

Matches
France 1-1 England
Norway 0-2 Belgium
England 2-1 Belgium
Norway 0-1 France
England 2-1 Norway
Belgium 0-0 France
France 2-1 Norway
Belgium 0-0 England
Norway 0-1 England
France 1-0 Belgium
England 1-2 France
Belgium 1-0 Norway


nations league a3 2000-01.png

Matches
FR Yugoslavia 1-1 Denmark
Portugal 3-1 Turkey
Denmark 1-1 Turkey
Portugal 2-1 FR Yugoslavia
Denmark 0-2 Portugal
Turkey 2-2 FR Yugoslavia
FR Yugoslavia 0-1 Portugal
Turkey 1-0 Denmark
Portugal 2-1 Denmark
FR Yugoslavia 1-1 Turkey
Denmark 2-1 FR Yugoslavia
Turkey 1-1 Portugal


nations league a4 2000-01.png

Matches
Netherlands 0-0 Scotland
Spain 1-0 Sweden
Scotland 1-1 Sweden
Spain 1-2 Netherlands
Scotland 1-1 Spain
Sweden 1-0 Netherlands
Netherlands 1-0 Spain
Sweden 2-1 Scotland
Spain 2-0 Scotland
Netherlands 2-2 Sweden
Scotland 2-2 Netherlands
Sweden 1-1 Spain



2001 UEFA Nations League Finals
Having hosted the previous Finals, Portugal were ineligible to submit a bid this season. Sweden had not originally expressed interest in arranging the Finals because they "didn't think they would even qualify", according to the Swedish FA. Still, a bid was launched. France also applied to organize the competition. Despite living up to the requirements, the bids from France and Sweden were eventually rejected in favor of Italy. It is understood that France was rejected due to hosting the FIFA World Cup so recently, while Sweden's stadiums, although satisfactory, are inferior to those in Italy. The 2001 Finals were played in Milan and Turin from 5 to 9 June, the same dates as the preceding edition. These Finals offered more entertaining matches and a much higher goal tally than in 1999.

Just like last season, the semi-final pairings were determined by an open draw, with hosts Italy being drawn against Sweden, and France having to face off versus Portugal. At the Euros of last year, Italy had defeated Sweden after goals from Luigi Di Biagio and Alessandro Del Piero. This time it was Henrik Larsson who gave Sweden a sensational lead thanks to a penalty right on the stroke of half-time. Gianluigi Buffon correctly predicted where Larsson would shoot, but to no avail. Then the second half came, where goals from Francesco Totti and Gianluca Zambrotta broke Swedish hearts and ended the cinderella run.

The second match was another replay of a Euro 2000 game, the semi-final that saw France beat Portugal thanks to a penalty golden goal. This time Le Bleus didn't even need extra time, as goals from Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry granted France a surprisingly easy win.

The third place play-off was an entertaining affair. Sweden sensationally had a two-goal lead in the 24th minute because of Jörgen Pettersson and Marcus Allbäck, but tragically lost 3-2 in the end. A penalty from Conceição in the 34th minute was followed up by a delicate Romeu Almeida finish in the second half. Rui Costa's superb long-distance strike as added time was approaching sealed Sweden's fate. While Sweden had suffered two heartbreaking losses, it was still a monumental achievement to make it this far. Portugal secured their second consecutive bronze at the tournament.

Ahead of the final, some pundits 'jokingly' said that it was "good that we would see a real champion this year, unlike Romania or Norway as in 1999". Understandably, many Romanians and Norwegians didn't take too kindly to this.

In the Euro 2000 final, a last-minute equalizer followed by a last-minute golden goal had made France victorious over Italy. Just like a year prior, the Italians took the lead. Filippo Inzaghi scored early in the second half. However, it seemed the Azzurri had learned their defensive lesson, because Le Bleus never found the equalizer this time. Italy had secured their first major title since winning the 1982 World Cup.

nations league finals 2001.png


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That concludes the second Nations League season of this timeline. I hope you enjoyed it! Let me know what you think.

I swear it was actually a coincidence that the first two to host the Finals ITTL are exactly the same as those IOTL.

Stay tuned for the next part, where we will see a new team join.
 
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Part 7 - New Blood New
Part 7 - New Blood
2002-03 Season: Introduction and Group Phase Draw

The 2002-03 UEFA Nations League was the third edition of the tournament, Italy being the defending champions. This season saw Kazakhstan switch confederations from AFC to UEFA in June 2002 after the group phase draw was conducted on 25 January in Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal. Because of this, there were doubts about whether they would even be able to participate this season.

However, following an emergency meeting by the UEFA Executive Committee, it was decided that Kazakhstan would be retroactively allocated to League D, leading to a slight overhaul of the format. The winner of League D would be guaranteed promotion this season, meaning that League C would contain 16 teams instead of 15 from next season onward. The second-placed and third-placed teams League D teams would still qualify for the interleague play-offs alongside the four bottom-placed League C teams.

Some representatives from the League D FA’s of Andorra, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and San Marino expressed mild criticism that the changes were made with such short notice and that it increased the workload for their national teams. Still, they accepted the situation and stated it was a good opportunity to gain more experience and grow.

Despite the format change, the schedule and tiebreakers remained the same, as did League B and League A. Additionally, UEFA changed the order of the matchups, as was standard practice for every new season. As Group C4 and Group D1 didn't have four teams, their matchday schedules were marginally altered, while still adhering to the standard one as much as possible.

nations league schedule 2002-03.png

Schedule of the 2002-03 UEFA Nations League.

Last season FR Yugoslavia, Norway, Romania and Scotland were relegated from League A while Finland, Germany, the Republic of Ireland and Russia were promoted from League B. Greece, Iceland, Latvia and Lithuania were relegated from League B while Belarus, Georgia, Hungary and Slovakia were promoted from League C, that saw no teams be relegated. Naturally, this meant no teams were promoted from League D.

When it came to hosting the 2003 Finals, Belgium, England, France, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden expressed interest to launch bids if they qualify following the completion of the group phase. For the draw, teams were seeded according to the Nations League overall rankings.

nations league seeding 2002-03.png

2000-01 UEFA Nations League overall rankings.

League D's major talking point was naturally the admittance of Kazakhstan and the fact that a team from their division was guaranteed a promotion spot this season unlike having to rely on the interleague play-offs. The FA's in the league expressed they viewed it as a golden opportunity.

League C's only real controversy was that Greece and Macedonia were in the same group. While there were no official requests to have them switch groups, there were concerns about riots and violence between a minority of radical fans. UEFA stood by the decision, stating that "the integrity of the draw cannot be jeopardized" and that a "minority of violence fans won't be allowed to ruin the fun for everyone else". In contrast, League B and League A were entirely spared from any real controversies.


League D
nations league d 2002-03.png



League C
nations league c 2002-03 REAL.png



League B
nations league b 2002-03.png



League A
nations league a 2002-03.png



--------------------------------------------------

That's it. Draw and introduction of the third season completed! Let me know your thoughts on the groups as well as potential predictions, or any other thoughts regarding the timeline. I'd love to hear it.

Stay tuned for the next part when League D to C and the interleague play-offs will conclude!
 

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