The Portuguese national team has learned its fate for the 2018/2019 UEFA Nations League at the draw which took place on Wednesday in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The event also saw the inaugural trophy and anthem of the competition being unveiled for the first time.
What is the UEFA Nations League?
The UEFA Nations League is a league-based, biennial tournament for the 55-member countries in the European continent. The idea was birthed in order to improve the general quality and standard of international football.
It comes in as a substitute for international friendly games and as a result will take place during the dates set by FIFA on the international match calendar, starting September 2018. With regards to its format, the 55 countries involved have been placed into four leagues; A, B, C, and D.
— UEFA Nations League (@UEFAEURO) January 24, 2018
This was based on the current UEFA Coefficient Ranking. 12 teams are allocated to both Leagues A and B, whereas Leagues C and D have 15 and 16 teams respectively. The nations are further placed into four groups under each league.
The winners of each group will gain promotion to the league above while the losers will be relegated to the league below. Only the winners of groups in League A will be eligible to qualify for the UEFA Nations League Finals where they will feature in the semis, third and fourth place and subsequently the final itself, come June 2019.
Inside the #NationsLeague ?
— UEFA Nations League (@UEFAEURO) January 24, 2018
Ronaldo and Portugal’s H2H vs group rivals
The Seleccao, who is currently placed second on the UEFA Coefficient Ranking, was placed alongside Italy and Poland in Group 3 of League A. Here is all you need to know about Portugal, as well as Cristiano Ronaldo, against these two opponents:
• Portugal played its first-ever game against Italy on June 18, 1925. The Seleccao won by a goal to nil.
• The two countries have met 24 times since then. Portugal has won only four of such meetings, drawn twice and has lost to the Italians on a staggering 18 occasions.
• The biggest scoreline in a game between the two countries was recorded on December 1, 1929. The final score was 6-1 in favor of Italy.
• Cristiano Ronaldo played in his first match against Italy as a substitute on March 31, 2004. His side lost 2-1 at home in that game.
• Cristiano Ronaldo has been on the winning side in one of the three matches he’s played in against Italy. A goal by Eder inspired the Seleccao to a 1-0 victory in an international friendly back in June 2015.
• Cristiano Ronaldo is yet to score against Italy in any international competition.
• Portugal met Poland on the international stage for the first time in the 1976 FIFA World Cup. They lost the game by two goals to nil.
• Both countries have encountered each other 11 times across all competitions. Portugal has won three, drawn three and has lost five times against Poland.
• Portugal’s biggest winning margin came in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. A goal by Rui Costa and a hat-trick by Pauleta inspired the 4-0 victory.
• Cristiano Ronaldo has scored once in four games against Poland.
• Cristiano Ronaldo scored in the penalty-shootouts that aided Portugal to progress to the semi-final of the EURO 2016 at the expense of Poland.
The road to the trophy
Considering the above statistics, it’s been quite a topsy-turvy affair between Cristiano Ronaldo and the Portuguese national team against these two opponents. With the Seleccao enjoying incredible successes in recent times, odds are in their favor to turn their fortunes in the upcoming games against Italy and Poland.
— Deco 20 (@Deco20oficial) January 24, 2018
Should Fernando Santos’ men emerge victors in Group 3, they will be pit against winners of Groups 1, 2 and 4 of League A in the finals of the Nations League. A win in the semi-final will also set the EURO 2016 winners on the path to clinching the inaugural edition of the UEFA Nations League Trophy, come June 2019.
When will the UEFA Nations League take place?
Per FIFA’s calendar for international football, here is the schedule for the Group 3 games under League A of the UEFA Nations League (All the times are in CET):
- Matchday 1: Friday, 7th September 2018
Italy v Poland (20:45)
- Matchday 2: Monday, 10th September 2018
Portugal v Italy (20:45)
- Matchday 3: Thursday, 11th October 2018
Poland v Portugal (20:45)
- Matchday 4: Sunday, 14th October 2018
Poland v Italy (20:45)
- Matchday 5: Saturday, 17th November 2018
Italy v Portugal (20:45)
- Matchday 6: Tuesday, 20th November 2018
Portugal v Poland (20:45)
After the League Phase:
- Finals draw (League A group winners): early December 2018
- Finals: 5th–9th June 2019
- UEFA EURO 2020 play-off draw: 22nd November 2019
- UEFA EURO 2020 playoffs: 26th–31st March 2020
UEFA EURO 2020 PlayOffs
Portugal will have the opportunity to feature in UEFA EURO 2020 via the traditional qualifying format which will commence in March 2019. In any case the Seleccao fails to secure any of the 20 spots available through the qualifying games, they will have another opportunity to do so via the UEFA Nations League playoffs.
Here, there will be four places that will be competed for by all the 16 group winners from Leagues A to D. In a scenario where a group leader is part of the 20 teams to have qualified through the traditional qualifiers, their spot will be awarded to the team which will finish second in their UEFA Nations League group.
If any of the leagues also has less than four teams to compete, the best-ranked team from the next league will be rewarded the spot.