Thankfully though, there is room for manoeuvre and instead of filling a gap in the next off-season period, the second Nations League winner in the competition’s history, will instead be crowned 11 months from now.

Of the four nations that are competing in the knockout phase, it is Italy that have been awarded the hosting rights for next October’s climax to proceedings – with the host only ever being chosen from the band of eventual qualifiers.

Which is why Group A1 of League A garnered further interest, as Italy, the Netherlands and Poland all voiced intentions of hosting the finals and in turn, this inadvertently created a winner take all scenario for the three nations who planned to put on a party next year.

While it would be the Italians who would eventually win this three nation shootout in the end and after beating Bosnia-Herzegovina by two goals to nil on the final November matchday, Roberto Mancini’s men would pip their Dutch counterparts to the top of Group A1.

The Italians accrued 12 points from the 18 that were on offer, one more than the Netherlands and with the latter making the finals stage in Portugal in 2019, there will be obvious disappointment in not being able to repeat such a feat.

Moving onto Group A2 and current FIFA World Rankings leaders Belgium have also booked their entry into next October’s showpiece event, after getting the better of a group that consisted of themselves, Denmark, England, and Iceland.

The fact that Roberto Martinez has masterminded such a feat is no real surprise, with the Belgians clear at the top of Group A2 with 15 points. However, the fact that England could only limp to third place by comparison arguably is.

For a nation that is considered one of the favourites to win next year’s European Championships, their recent performances suggest that the Three Lions have some work to do beforehand. Then again, one could argue this is the perfect opportunity in which to test new systems and players.

Whichever side of the fence you sit on, one thing that is for certain, is that like the Netherlands, England will not be making it a pair of Nations League finals trips and with the current rows over Premier League player fitness, that might not be the worst thing either.

There’s certainly reason to be cheerful in Group A3, as World Cup holders France have reached the final four and in doing so, consigned inaugural Nations League winners Portugal to second place in their mini league.

Which means, there will be a new name on the trophy once the final is contested and there is no reason why it cannot be Portugal’s Iberian cousins Spain, as they will look to build on the emphatic 6-0 thrashing that they recently dished out to Germany.

In what was the climax of Group A4, the Germans, who previously finished bottom of their three-nation league and would be saved from relegation after a format restructure, were dealt their heaviest competitive defeat.

Celebrations for Spain, commiserations for Germany and with that result now etched in the annals of time, the four finalists will hope that winning the Nations League, then becomes the second part of a 2021 European international tournament double.

Written by Dan Tracey

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