Repeats of the most recent EURO and World Cup finals are among the delights on offer when the new UEFA Nations League campaign gets under way.
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England will look to atone for their UEFA EURO 2020 final shoot-out loss to Italy, while Croatia can seek revenge for their 2018 FIFA World Cup final defeat against France when the third UEFA Nations League gets under way.
UEFA.com picks through the fixtures to find some jewels in the schedule.
England welcome Italy in EURO final rematch
That shoot-out defeat in the final of UEFA EURO 2020 will still be fresh in the minds of England players when the Azzurri return to London on 11 June for the sides' opening League A3 meeting. Italy boss Roberto Mancini rather underplayed the speedy rematch with Gareth Southgate’s team, noting merely "those will be fun matches".
For Southgate, there is more at stake. Under his leadership, England have reached a World Cup semi-final and a EURO final, but have yet to prove they can consistently beat the very top outfits in European football. He told UEFA.com that their EURO final experience had stung his side: "We haven’t got to where we want to get yet and I think that fire is burning within our group of players."
Croatia seeking payback against France
"We've got France once again," Croatia coach Zlatko Dalić told UEFA.com after the league phase draw. "We can’t get away from them." Les Bleus have certainly enjoyed the two countries' encounters down the years, not least the 2018 World Cup final, where they emerged as 4-2 winners at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. "We know each other well," said France boss Didier Deschamps. "it will be a great pleasure to meet my colleague [Zlatko] Dalić again."
Home and away losses in the last edition of the UEFA Nations League mean Croatia are yet to beat France in eight senior international meetings (D2 L6), starting with a 2-1 reversal in the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup in Paris. Will their luck turn in France on 13 June?
Spain and Portugal back to the drawing board
"It's one of the good things about this competition that there are no games against lesser rivals and any team can beat us," said Spain coach Luis Enrique after the draw, though neighbours Portugal have not beaten Spain that often of late. Indeed, nine of the last 13 games between the teams have ended level at the final whistle, including the UEFA EURO 2012 semi-final that La Roja won on penalties.
Winners of the inaugural UEFA Nations League in 2019, Fernando Santos's Portugal will be the away side in the latest chapter of this long footballing relationship on 2 June. They have drawn their last five away fixtures against the Spanish, but have not prevailed in their neighbours' back yard since a 2-1 friendly success in 1937.
Flick faces biggest test as new Germany boss
Joachim Löw’s long and successful spell as Germany coach concluded with a 2-0 defeat to England at Wembley during EURO 2020, with new boss Hansi Flick facing perhaps the biggest challenge since he took charge as they welcome the Three Lions. "We are delighted to be able to test ourselves against the best," said the former Bayern coach. "All the fans in Germany can be happy about this and we are too because it will be the next step along the way."
Southgate has had his eye on the new regime, observing that Die Mannschaft have "got some fabulous young players coming through". The sides reconvene in Germany on 7 June. A relatively youthful England triumphed 5-1 in their most recent qualifying game in Munich, Michael Owen scoring a hat-trick on 1 September 2001. Can Flick’s new-look Germany achieve something similar?
Wales aiming high against Belgium
"You dream about nights like this," said ex-Wales tactician Chris Coleman after his charges beat Belgium 3-1 in Lille in the UEFA EURO 2016 quarter-finals, possibly the greatest single result in the Dragons' history. It was not so dreamy when these teams met in 2022 World Cup qualifying, the Red Devils winning 3-1 in Leuven and drawing 1-1 in Cardiff.
However, having battled their way up to League A, Wales are determined to prove their worth, and what better way than to overcome a team that has spent so long at the top of the FIFA rankings in recent years. Wales boss Rob Page said: "We deserve to be in this top division, and if we want to improve and continue to develop our young players we have to play against the best teams."
Worth looking out for
- Scotland and Ukraine have been drawn together in Group B1; they will also face each other in March in a play-off to reach the World Cup finals.
- Neighbours Norway and Sweden meet in Group B4; will Erling Haaland or Alexander Isak help end a run of four successive draws between the sides?
- North Macedonia and Georgia are together again in Group C4; North Macedonia beat Georgia in the play-off final to make it to EURO 2020. The teams drew 1-1 twice in the last Nations League.
Matchdays 1 & 2: 2–7 June 2022
Matchdays 3 & 4: 9–14 June 2022
Matchdays 5 & 6: 22–27 September 2022
Finals draw: tbc
Semi-finals: 14 & 15 June 2023
Final & third-place match: 18 June 2023
Play-outs: 21–23 & 24–26 March 2024