France's Olivier Giroud celebrates scoring their second goal with Kylian Mbappe and Benjamin Mendy during the UEFA Nations League football match against Netherlands in France on September 9. -Reuters
The UEFA Nations League could not have timed its inaugural matchday better with freshly-crowned world champions France in the midst of gripping action in the race for the new continental title.The competition was created to replace friendly internationals that were proving unpopular with clubs, players and fans as they interrupted league action.
To be held every two years, it features all 55 of Europe's national teams divided into four leagues that are themselves split into four groups of three, to be played between September and November.
Apart from promotion, relegation and financial bonuses in every league, the top one, which includes France, Spain, England and Germany, will finish with a four-team mini-tournament in June next year, to decide the champion.
Initially greeted with scepticism, the Nations League largely got the thumbs up after the first batch of matches. "I really like the competition," said Germany coach Joachim Loew, whose team drew 0-0 in their League A clash against France last Thursday. "Because we have matches on a very high level."
"You could also see that the fans were really behind it," Loew said after almost 80,000 poured into Munich's Allianz Arena for the game. The Germans were desperate to make amends for their World Cup fiasco in Russia that saw them crash out at the group stage in June, and few teams would be better suited than the new world champions.
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