‘Feeble’ England Relegated From Nations League Group: What This Means for the Three Lions

England

The men’s England national team have been relegated from their Nations League group following a 1 – 0 defeat to Euro 2020 champions Italy. Gareth Southgate’s side have struggled in the recently formed competition, including a humbling 4-0 defeat to Hungary. Lacklustre performances have raised questions about the effectiveness of the squad and the current setup, with the performances making the team look “feeble” according to The Guardian’s Barney Ronay.

With the 2022 World Cup set to kick off in Qatar on November 20, the Three Lions will need to find the solutions to their problems as soon as possible if they are to taste any success in the tournament.

What Relegation in Nations League Could Mean for England

Where Do England Currently Sit?

Following the defeat to Italy, England have now been relegated as they sit at the bottom of the table on a paltry two points. The three Lions will finish bottom of Group A3, which is one of four groups in the ‘A tier’ of the Nations League. The winners of the four ‘A’ groups will participate in the semi-finals of the tournament next summer. Along with this, the four teams who finish bottom of these groups are relegated to each of the four ‘B’ groups of the tournament. There is still one fixture left to play, which for England will be a faceoff against Germany at Wembley. The hosts will be hoping for a much-improved performance in what is the final international fixture before the World Cup.

Italy meanwhile managed to drag themselves above Germany into 2nd place following their victory over England. A showdown against current 1st place Hungary on September 26 will be the decider for the eventual winner of the group.

Who Else Could Be Relegated?

Surprisingly, England aren’t the only major European presence that could be relegated from the top-flight of the competition. World champions France lie precariously in 3rd place of Group A1 just one point above last-placed Austria. Switzerland, who were standout performers at Euro 2020, are at risk as well as they sit at the bottom of Group A2.

As a result of this, massive footballing presences could be displaced in what is meant to be the highest level of European international football. This could harm the integrity of the Nations League, as UEFA’s attempts at promoting it as a legitimate international competition, not just glorified friendlies, will be tested. With nations such as Bosnia and Herzegovina securing promotion from the Nations League ‘B’ tier, as well as Israel closing in on a top finish in their group, those looking for competitive international fixtures outside of the Euros and World Cup could be disappointed. That’s not to say that these nations have not earned their place in the top tier of the tournament, however, the fixtures become somewhat less enticing to neutral fans that want to see the European giants square off more frequently.

What Does England’s Relegation Mean?

With England dropping down into the ‘B tier’ of European international football, it of course rules them out of contention for the 2023/24 Nations League trophy. This is unlikely to raise too much ire from England fans, as the tournament is still a long way short of being considered a major international trophy. However, there could indirectly be an impact on England’s chances in Euro 2024. Relegation for Southgate’s side would mean almost no opportunity to test themselves against the top European nations, instead being pitted in a group with the likes of Albania or Armenia.

Due to this, Southgate’s best eleven heading into Euro 2024 could be a massive question mark. If all Southgate has to go on is that Manchester City‘s Jack Grealish can embarrass the Albanian Right-Back, or that Brentford‘s Ivan Toney can score hat-tricks against Armenia, how can he be expected to know what his best eleven is to beat a European goliath in a Euros quarter-final?

Of course, international friendlies were the solution to this for years before the Nations League, but with the format for the 2023/24 competition yet to be confirmed, it puts England at risk of playing very few games against major European opposition between now and Euro 2024, potentially damaging their hopes for ending what could be 58 years of hurt come 2024.