LAUSANNE: Germany will face old rivals France and Holland after the trio were drawn together in the same three-team group for the inaugural UEFA Nations League, the latest addition to the football calendar, on Wednesday.

The trio will feature in Group One of League A, the top division of the four-tier tournament that UEFA has introduced to replace international friendlies and which will run alongside the traditional European championship qualifiers.

It was an early boost for the competition which critics say is too complex, adds to an already crowded calendar and, because it provides an additional path to tournaments such as Euro 2020, makes it too easy for the top teams to qualify.

England will face Spain and Croatia in League A while Wales were drawn alongside the Republic of Ireland and Denmark in League B, while Northern Ireland were grouped with Austria and Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Scotland, still without a manager, were drawn in League C alongside Albania and Israel.

The first group games take place in September this year, with the finals scheduled for June 2019.

UEFA, concerned that international football is losing popularity to the club game, argues that the league will provide the top nations with more competitive matches against each other.

In the other League A groups, Italy, who failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup finals, will face European champions Portugal and Poland in Group Three while Spain take on England and Croatia in Group Four.

Belgium will meet Switzerland and Iceland in Group Two, arguably the easiest.

The Nations League features all 55 of Europe’s national teams divided into four divisions — Leagues A to D — that are themselves split into four groups, to be played between September and November.

In League A, the winners of each group qualify for the semi-finals, which will be played in June 2019, followed by the final. The four last-placed teams are relegated to League B.

In the other leagues, the four group winners are promoted and last team in each group goes down.

Each league also has one place at Euro 2020, offering a back door for teams who do not qualify through the regular qualifiers.

This mechanism guarantees that one fourth-tier side — such as Georgia, Azerbaijan, Faroe Islands or Malta — will reach Euro 2020.

Germany coach Joachim Loew said the new competition was “really interesting.”

”I like these kind of games,“ he told reporters. ”France is a big nation, very good players, and Netherlands too, so it’s interesting for us, our players and of course our fans. It’s better than the friendly games we have sometimes. I‘m really happy.”

Poland coach Adam Nawalka agreed. “It’s a very good idea to have this competition instead of friendlies, we have a very interesting group with the European champions Portugal and four-times world champions Italy,” he told Reuters.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos told UEFA’s website: ”One of the positives with this competition is more games between teams of a similar standard.

“Some countries knew they will always struggle to get to a World Cup or a EURO, and they will now have another reason to invest in grassroots development and, of course, all European football will benefit from that.”

Groups in full:

League A
Group one Group two Group three Group four
Netherlands Iceland Poland Croatia
France Switzerland Italy England
Germany Belgium Portugal Spain
League B
Group one Group two Group three Group four
Czech Republic Turkey Northern Ireland Denmark
Ukraine Sweden Bosnia and Herzegovina Republic of Ireland
Slovakia Russia Austria Wales
League C
Group one Group two Group three Group four
Israel Estonia Cyprus Lithuania
Albania Finland Bulgaria Montenegro
Scotland Greece Norway Serbia
Hungary Slovenia Romania
League D
Group one Group two Group three Group four
Andorra San Marino Kosovo Gibraltar
Kazakhstan Moldova Malta Liechtenstein
Latvia Luxembourg Faroe Islands Armenia
Georgia Belarus Azerbaijan Macedonia