The semifinals and finals of the 2021 UEFA Nations League take place in Italy this week, featuring four of the top eight teams in the world rankings: Belgium, France, Italy and Spain. Italy is the defending Euro 2021 champion, while France is the reigning 2018 World Cup champion.
One Nations League semifinal will be a rematch of a thrilling Euro 2021 semifinal played last July (Italy vs. Spain), while the other will pit two teams that met in the semifinal of the 2018 FIFA World Cup (France vs. Belgium). The winners will face off in the Nations League final on Sunday, Oct. 10, while the semifinal losers play for third place on the same day.
LIVE BLOG: Italy vs. Spain
Here’s everything you need to know about the competition, how it works, how to watch it and what’s at stake.
Nations League finals schedule
The UEFA Nations League is a biennial tournament that was launched in 2018 to replace friendlies with meaningful competition. The inaugural edition was held between 2018 and 2019 with Portugal hoisting the trophy for the first time.
Belgium, France, Italy and Spain reached the finals of the 2021 edition by virtue of finishing at the top of their respective groups in League A. After a draw held in December 2020, these are the pairings:
Semifinal #1: Wed., Oct. 6
|Semi #1: Italy vs. Spain||2:45 p.m. ET||Milan||ESPN2, UniMas, TUDN||fuboTV|
Semifinal #2: Thurs., Oct. 7
|Semi #2: Belgium vs. France||2:45 p.m. ET||Turin||ESPN2, UniMas, TUDN||fuboTV|
Third-Place: Sun., Oct. 10
|Losers Semi #1 vs. Semi #2||9 a.m. ET||Turin||ESPNU, UniMas, TUDN||fuboTV|
Final: Sun., Oct. 10
|Winners Semi #1 vs. Semi #2||2:45 p.m. ET||Milan||ESPN, Univision, TUDN||fuboTV|
How to watch Nations League
- Dates: Wed., Oct. 6 – Sun., Oct. 10
- Times: 2:45 p.m. ET (3rd place match kicks off at 9 a.m. ET)
- TV Channels: ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU
- Spanish-language TV: Univision, UniMas, TUDN
- Streaming: fuboTV (free 7-day trial)
The UEFA Nations League semifinals and finals will be televised in English and Spanish in the United States by the ESPN and Univision family of networks, respectively. Those channels are available to stream on fuboTV with a free 7-day trial available to new users.
What happens if Nations League semis or finals end in a draw?
According to the official tournament rules, if there is no winner at the end of the 90 minutes of regulation, a 30-minute extra time period is played, split into two halves of 15 minutes each.
If there is still no winner after 30 minutes of extra time, then the match will be decided in a penalty-kick shootout.
MORE: The PK shootout that crowned Italy Euro 2021 champs
Nations League prize money
In addition to the Nations League trophy that’s up for grabs, there’s prize money that goes to each respective federation depending on finish:
- Winner: $12.1 million
- Runner-up: $10.4 million
- 3rd Place: $9.2 million
- 4th Place: $8.1 million
Per UEFA, the above figures include the participating fee and the prize money for winning their respective UEFA Nations League groups.
Why are the Nations League finals played in Italy?
Since Italy, Poland and the Netherlands all submitted bids to host the UEFA Nations League finals and all three nations also happened to be competing in Group 1, the UEFA Executive Committee decided that the winner of that group would host the finals.
Italy finished atop Group 1, one point ahead of the Netherlands and five better than Poland. As a result the UEFA executive committee in December 2020 formally confirmed Italy as the host of the 2021 tournament.
How do teams qualify for the Nations League Finals?
The 55 nations that make up UEFA are divided into four different leagues based on a UEFA ranking system called an “Access List”. The best teams are in League A and the lowest-ranked sides are in League D. Teams are promoted and relegated across the different leagues:
UEFA countries in Nations League:
- League A: 16 nations, 4 groups
- League B: 16 nations, 4 groups
- League C: 16 nations, 4 groups
- League D: 7 nations, 2 groups
Nations League format: Within each “league”, the countries are split up into four-team groups (except for a lone three-team group in League D). Each team plays the others in the group once at home and once away.
What’s at stake: The first-place finishers in League A advance to the Nations League finals and battle for the trophy and prize money, while the nations that top the groups in Leagues B, C and D win promotion to the tier above. The last-place group finishers in Leagues A and B are relegated one tier down, with the bottom teams in Group C meeting in a playoff to determine the two relegated teams to League D.
Italy (Group 1), Belgium (Group 2), France (Group 3) and Spain (Group 4) made it to the 2021 finals by virtue of finishing at the top of their respective groups in League A.
How many substitutes in Nations League?
Each team involved in the semifinals and finals is permitted a maximum of five substitutes, with a sixth substitute permitted per team if the match goes into extra time.
Teams can stop play a maximum of three times to make subs with an additional stoppage allowed in extra time. Subs made at halftime, at the end of regulation or at halftime of the extra time period will not count against the permitted stoppages.
Which teams have won Nations League?
The team that wins the 2021 Nations League will succeed Portugal, which won the inaugural edition in 2019 on home soil by beating the Netherlands in the final on a lone goal by Goncalo Guedes.
That tournament featured a similar format, but the final four teams were all different: England, Netherlands, Switzerland and hosts Portugal.
2019 Nations League Semis & Finals
Portugal 3, Switzerland 1
Netherlands 3, England 1 (a.e.t.)
England 0, Switzerland 0 (6-5 on PKs)
Portugal 1, Netherlands 0
Are Nations League finalists missing World Cup qualifiers?
There’s a reason that Italy, Belgium, Spain and France were drawn into five-team groups in UEFA World Cup Qualifying. That ensured they would have a total of eight group-stage matches compared to the 10 matches played in the other groups featuring six competing nations.
So while other nations across Europe will be busy with World Cup qualifiers during this October 2021 international window, these four nations don’t have scheduled World Cup qualifying matches. All their qualifiers fit into the other available windows.
MORE: Updated UEFA Champions League standings & schedule
Nations League Finals rosters
Each team has summoned a 23-man roster for the UEFA Nations League finals. Club teams follow each name in parentheses.
Goalkeepers (3): Koen Casteels (VfL Wolfsburg), Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge)
Defenders (6): Toby Alderweireld (Al-Duhail), Dedryck Boyata (Hertha Berlin), Timothy Castagne (Leicester City), Jason Denayer (Lyon), Thomas Foket (Stade de Reims), Jan Vertonghen (Benfica)
Midfielders (7): Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Leander Dendoncker (Wolves), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund), Alexis Saelemaekers (AC Milan), Youri Tielemans (Leicester City), Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge), Axel Witsel (Borussia Dortmund)
Forwards (7): Michy Batshuayi (Besiktas), Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Charles De Ketelaere (Club Brugge), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea), Dodi Lukebakio (VfL Wolfsburg), Leandro Trossard (Brighton)
Goalkeepers (3): Benoit Costil (Bordeaux), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Mike Maignan (AC Milan)
Defenders (9): Lucas Digne (Everton), Leo Dubois (Lyon), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Theo Hernandez (AC Milan), Presnel Kimpembe (PSG), Jules Kounde (Sevilla), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich), Raphael Varane (Manchester United)
Midfielders (5): Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurelien Tchouameni (Monaco), Jordan Veretout (AS Roma)
Forwards (6): Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Moussa Diaby (Bayer Leverkusen), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Kylian Mbappe (PSG)
Goalkeepers (3): Gianluigi Donnarumma (PSG), Alex Meret (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Genoa)
Defenders (8): Francesco Acerbi (Lazio), Alessandro Bastoni (Inter Milan), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Davide Calabria (AC Milan), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Federico Dimarco (Inter Milan), Emerson Palmieri (Lyon)
Midfielders (7): Nicolo Barella (Inter Milan), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Bryan Cristante (AS Roma), Jorginho (Chelsea), Manuel Locatelli (Juventus), Lorenzo Pellegrini (AS Roma), Marco Verratti (PSG)
Forwards (5): Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Chiesa (Juventus), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Moise Kean (Juventus), Giacomo Raspadori (Sassuolo)
Goalkeepers (3): David de Gea (Manchester United), Robert Sanchez (Brighton), Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao)
Defenders (8): Marcos Alonso (Chelsea), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Eric García (Barcelona), Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City), Inigo Martínez (Athletic Bilbao), Pedro Porro (Sporting CP), Sergio Reguilon (Tottenham), Pau Torres (Villarreal)
Midfielders (9): Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Pablo Fornals (West Ham), Gavi (Barcelona), Bryan Gil (Tottenham), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad), Rodri (Manchester City), Sergi Roberto (Barcelona)
Forwards (3): Yeremi Pino (Villarreal), Pablo Sarabia (Sporting CP), Ferran Torres (Manchester City)