Nations League: Who could Scotland face and what's at stake this time?

Scotland manager Steve Clarke
Will Scotland manager Steve Clarke be smiling when he sees the Nations League draw?

Not everybody understands how it works yet, but Scotland fans are all in favour of the Nations League, right?

The tournament, played for the first time in 2018, has provided a possible route to Euro 2020 for Steve Clarke's side, with a semi-final to come later this month.

Designed to replace often-drab friendlies and deemed a success because almost every game matters, it's back for another run, with the draw on Tuesday at 17:00 GMT and a few tweaks to the format.

For the 2020-21 edition, Leagues A, B and C will be made up of four groups of four teams. Scotland are in League B, having topped a three-team section in the C category last time.

Who are our possible opponents?

The sections are seeded, with groups made up of one team from each pot.

LEAGUE B

  • Pot 1: Russia, Austria, Wales, Czech Republic
  • Pot 2: Scotland, Norway, Serbia, Finland
  • Pot 3: Slovakia, Turkey, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland
  • Pot 4: Bulgaria, Israel, Hungary, Romania

Scotland will want to avoid Russia from pot one after losing home and away to the World Cup quarter-finalists when finishing a distant third in a Euro 2020 qualifying group won comfortably by Belgium.

All of the teams in pot three are above Scotland in the current Fifa rankings, which is a bit of a worry, with Turkey already qualified for the Euros after an impressive campaign, pushing World Cup winners France all the way. Slovakia are the last top 50 side Scotland beat in a competitive match, back in October 2017.

Will the fates pit us against Israel yet again? Despite being in our Nations League group last time, Israel are our semi-final opponents at Hampden on 26 March, with Norway or Serbia waiting in the final.

How does it work again?

Teams play each other home and away, with the four group winners of League A qualifying for the Nations League finals in June 2021. Portugal are the holders. We don't need to worry about that.

The group winners in B, C and D gain promotion and those finishing last in A and B will be relegated.

What's at stake this time?

With the next Euros not until 2024, there's no alternative route available.

However, there is a slender World Cup lifeline for the two best ranked teams who do not finish in the top two of their tournament qualifying groups. (That draw is made on 29 November).

The 10 European World Cup qualifying group winners proceed directly to Qatar 2022, with the 10 runners-up and two teams from the Nations League left to fight it out for the three remaining places via three play-off paths.

So, there we have it. Meaningful matches in the warm-up for World Cup qualification, possible promotion to the big boys' league and the promise of a second bite at a place in Qatar, albeit a small one. More of a nibble.

When are the matches?

  • Matchday 1: 3-5 September 2020
  • Matchday 2: 6-8 September 2020
  • Matchday 3: 8-10 October 2020
  • Matchday 4: 11-13 October 2020
  • Matchday 5: 12-14 November 2020
  • Matchday 6: 15-17 November 2020

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