England vs Croatia: What Nations League relegation would mean for Gareth Southgate's side

16th Nov 2018

England face Croatia in the Nations League, with the threat of relegation looming - but what would a demotion mean? We take a look...

Croatia's win over Spain on Thursday night means England face an all or nothing battle with their World Cup semi-final conquerors at Wembley on Sunday.

Win and England will leapfrog group leaders Spain to reach next summer's finals. Lose and England will be relegated from the top tier of the Nations League.

A score draw would also see England drop from League A to League B, while a 0-0 would leave England safely in second spot, with Croatia dropping down.

What does relegation mean?

If England were to be relegated, the obvious initial impact would be Gareth Southgate's side having to face second tier teams in the next edition of the Nations League in 2020/21.

Rather than glamorous clashes with the likes of Spain, England would be pitched against teams such as Finland or Austria.

That would be a blow for Southgate, who has spoken of the positive impact playing top sides has had on the development of his team.

However, there are other implications, too.

In terms of qualification for the 2020 European Championships, the effects of Nations League relegation won't have an immediate impact, but it could subtly make England's task all the more difficult.

In the new format, qualifiers for the next Euros will be crammed into 10 games played between March and November next year, with the top two qualifying for the 2020 tournament, as normal.

Where it could affect England is that relegation will damage their coefficient, which is how the seedings for the European Championship qualifiers will be decided when the draw is made on December 2.

This could therefore mean England are handed a rather difficult qualification group as a result. They will also have work to do in the next Nations League to repair the damage.

Euro 2020 qualification still possible through Nations League?

In the Euro 2020 qualification groups, the top two of each group will qualify for the Europe-wide tournament, with the four remaining places decided by Nations League play-offs.

The format will be one-off play-off semi-finals, followed by a final, per league, with the winning team from each of leagues A, B, C and D taking the last four spots at the Euros.

If a country has already qualified by the conventional route, their place will go to the next highest-ranked team from their respective Nations League tier.

Complicated, right? England would therefore be in League B, but that could mean tricky play-offs against Sweden, Turkey or Wales.

Qualifying the usual way would therefore be preferable, but with the potential detrimental effect on the coefficient relegation could bring, that could well be a challenge, too. All to play for, then.

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