League C is the third level of the UEFA Nations League pyramid.
The four groups feature four teams that will play each other home and away.
The four group winners will be promoted to League B.
The four lowest-ranked teams will face off in relegation matches in March 2024, with the two losers relegated to League D.
Group 1: Turkey, Luxembourg, Lithuania and Faroe Islands
After their embarrassing relegation in 2020, Turkey aim to spend as little time as possible in League C.
Two years ago, the Crescent-Stars won just one of their six Nations League games, finishing last in a group including Hungary, Russia and Serbia.
More broadly, it has been a tough time for Turkey, who also lost all three Euro 2020 matches before missing out on World Cup qualification.
Stefan Kuntz’s side snuck into a play-off spot for Qatar 2022 but then saw their dreams shattered by a 3-1 loss to Portugal in March.
Nevertheless, Turkey should be far too strong at this level and are strong favorites to take the top spot.
Don’t forget Luxembourg after racking up nine points in eight World Cup qualifiers last year.
The Red Lions have beaten the Republic of Ireland in Dublin and Azerbaijan twice to secure their strongest ever qualifying campaign, in terms of points per game.
In the Nations League, Luc Holtz’s side have won six of 12 matches so far, narrowly missing out on promotion behind Montenegro in 2020.
While Luxembourg hope to challenge Turkey for first place, the other two teams are looking to avoid coming in last.
The Faroe Islands were promoted to this tier two years ago, going through their D League campaign unbeaten.
If Håkan Ericson’s side are to avoid the dreaded relegation play-offs, they will likely be looking to propel Lithuania into third place.
It will be Lithuania’s third consecutive season in League C, winning just two of 12 matches so far, losing eight.
Valdas Ivanauskas’ side have only beaten Bulgaria, Kazakhstan and Albania in competitive matches since October 2016, so they could be in danger.
Prediction: 1st – Turkey. 2nd-Luxembourg. 3rd- Faroe Islands. 4th- Lithuania.
Group 2: Northern Ireland, Greece, Kosovo and Cyprus
Greece, former winners of the European Championship, are the headliner of group 2.
Between 2004 and 2014, the Bleus du Ciel et Blancs played in six major tournaments, notably winning the European Championships 18 years ago.
However, since moving from Brazil in 2014 to Costa Rica on penalties, they have failed to qualify for all four World Cups and the Euros.
In Nations League terms, this will be Greece’s third consecutive season in League C, finishing two points behind group winners Slovenia two years ago.
New head coach Gus Poyet will certainly be aiming for promotion this time around, with Northern Ireland likely to be his biggest challenger.
This is the first Green and White Army campaign at this level to have suffered relegation in 2020.
In fact, Northern Ireland have never won a game in this competition in ten attempts, something Ian Baraclough’s side will be looking to straighten out.
After ending 2021 with a goalless draw against European champions Italy, they approach this League C campaign with confidence.
Cyprus pretty much survived at this level last time out, ousting Estonia 2-0 in the relegation play-offs in March.
The massive win in Larnaca is only Cyprus’ third victory in 14 Nations League appearances, a form that will certainly have to improve.
Kosovo, who complete the quartet, have also narrowly survived at this level, beating Moldova 1-0 on matchday six in Pristina two years ago.
The Dardanians have won just two of their last 17 competitive matches so it’s likely they will battle against Cyprus with both trying to avoid the qualifiers.
Prediction: 1st – Northern Ireland. 2nd- Greece. 3rd-Kosovo. 4th- Cyprus.
Group 3: Slovakia, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan
On paper, Group 3 contains a clear leader alongside three weaker teams, all of whom will be content not to finish bottom.
Slovakia are the heavy favorites to win promotion after being relegated last time out.
The Falcons have won just two of ten Nations League matches so far but, now competing at a lower level, that ratio is likely to improve significantly.
If Štefan Tarkovič’s team does not win this group at a gallop, it would be a major surprise.
Below them there is very little to separate the other three sides.
Kazakhstan only narrowly survived at this level, beating Moldova in March’s relegation game after a grueling penalty shootout.
More broadly, the Hawks have won just seven of their last 55 competitive internationals, dating back to September 2013.
Similarly, Azerbaijan only won once in this competition two years ago but just about survived, finishing two points ahead of Cyprus.
Gianni De Biasi’s side enter this edition without a win in 12 competitive matches, winning just one of their last 25.
Given all this, Belarus will be confident of staying in place, despite having lost their last seven matches, conceding 22 goals in the process.
In this competition though, the White Wings have actually won seven of their 12 games so far, including beating Kazakhstan home and away in 2020.
Georgi Kondratiev’s side will be handicapped by playing all home games behind closed doors at Stadion Karađorđe in Serbia.
This is due to the country’s involvement in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Prediction: 1st – Slovakia. 2nd- Belarus. 3rd-Kazakhstan. 4th- Azerbaijan.
Group 4: Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Georgia and Gibraltar
On the other hand, the first place in Group 4 is up for grabs.
North Macedonia have enjoyed unprecedented success over the past two years, making their major tournament debut at Euro 2020.
The Red Lynx actually qualified through their performances in the Nations League and to date have won seven of the competition’s 12 matches.
Last time out, they missed out on back-to-back promotions, propelled to first place by Armenia, falling just two points below.
More recently, Blagoja Milevski’s side almost qualified for the World Cup, surprisingly knocking out Italy in Palermo in the March play-offs.
However, North Macedonia couldn’t complete the fairy tale, losing 2-0 to Portugal at the Estádio do Dragão in the final five days later.
So, despite being the top seed, Bulgaria are not the favorites to be directly promoted to League B.
The Lions are currently winless in nine Nations League games, losing five, and were relegated with just two points in 2020.
Yasen Petrov’s kick-off by hosting North Macedonia in Razgrad on June 2; it will be a first litmus test of the promotion credentials of both.
Meanwhile, Gibraltar are number one in this section having been promoted from League D two years ago.
Julio César Ribas’ side picked up eight points against Liechtenstein and San Marino but will need to improve their game further to survive.
Similarly, Georgia made it through League D in 2018 but found life at that level more difficult two years later.
The Crusaders have only lost once but won only once in 2020 so, at the very least, they will be looking to stay at that level again this time around.
Prediction: 1st – North Macedonia. 2nd- Bulgaria. 3rd- Georgia. 4th-Gibraltar.