England and Scotland are set to renew their international footballing rivalry when the teams meet in the new Women’s Nations League.
The two sides have been drawn in the same group of the new competition, which begins in September, while there will also be a reunion for England head coach Sarina Wiegman with her native Netherlands in Group A1.
Belgium, whom England beat 6-1 in February, complete the Lionesses’ group for the Nations League. The European champions were amongst the top four seeds for the draw and therefore they avoided fellow seeds France, Germany and Sweden.
The women’s competition is very similar to the format used for the men’s Nations League, which was founded in 2018, with a round-robin group stage, which will take place across the autumn of 2023, and then the finals in February 2024.
The competition is split into three tiers, with relegation and promotion between the divisions at the end of each Nations League cycle.
It will also serve as the qualifying process for the women’s football competition at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. The two best-performing sides will join hosts France as Europe’s three sides involved in the Games, for which women’s national sides can select their strongest senior teams.
England’s draw could certainly have been harsher, primarily because they avoided Spain – ranked seventh in the world – from Pot Two, while Belgium were the lowest-ranked possible opponents they could have been handed from Pot Three.
Switzerland and Portugal – the best-ranked sides in Pot Four – were also avoided. Plus, the allure of England-Scotland ties could also provide a ticket-sales boost for the Lionesses, compared to the prospect of facing the Swiss or the Portuguese, so that will surely be welcomed by the Football Association.
The Netherlands, European champions in 2017, should offer the strongest test within the group, albeit England were 5-1 winners when the two sides met last June in a friendly at Elland Road.
Arguably the toughest group is A4, containing Sweden, Spain, Italy and Euro 2025 hosts Switzerland, while Wales were also handed a tricky-looking set of fixtures with Germany, Denmark and Iceland in their group.
Primarily, Uefa’s aim in setting up this competition is to create more competitive women’s fixtures and bring an end to the mismatches seen in the previous qualifying formats for major tournaments, with England beating Latvia 20-0 during qualifying for this summer’s World Cup for example.
In that regard, the Netherlands, Belgium and Scotland will offer significantly stronger opposition for Wiegman’s team and they will not have to wait long after the World Cup to embark on this next task, with the Nations League games starting just a month after the World Cup concludes.