Monday, September 04, 2006

pool the minnows

Like so many across England on Saturday I settled with a lager or three to watch England play the Andorran football team in a qualifying match for the European Football Championships. As is known now, and was fairly well predicted, Andorra barely made a pass within England's half, and had zero shots on goal. Whilst England will be thankful for the three points, the match did the teams, nor the competition, any good at all. However romantic the notion is of giant against minnow, Andorra are a barely strung together team of policeman, ski instructors and the like, who have zero chance at all of a victory against decent opposition, nor any chance of making the Finals, nor any chance of troubling the bigger teams in matches.
It is time for the romantic notion of group stage qualifying matches to be replaced by a sense of reasoned normality. The lowest ranked UEFA teams should be drawn into home/away games, with the winners (say 6) placed into the qualifying stage proper. This should give all the smaller teams a chance to play a testing game against their own kind, with the added incentive of a possible run against the bigger teams if they qualify through their own little contest. Romance remains, but reality is the back bone.
The current set of the lowest ranked teams are: Georgia, Cyprus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iceland, Malta, Liechtenstien, Andorra, Kazakhstan, Faroe Islands, San Marino and Luxembourg. Of these twelve, Iceland thumped Northern Ireland (72nd in the world), and Luxembourg fought out a narrow loss against the Netherlands, so the chance of "a little trip" exists now, as it would had these twelve fought for the right to play the bigger teams in a pre-qualifying contest for their benefit. International football would do itself a great favour if it did not continue to embarass itself, and the teams of merit, with money wasting kick-abouts between world class stars and part time hopefuls.

1 comment:

Chiv said...

I like the idea of seeing some of those teams competing with eachother, and even think that it would be good for them to have that sort of competition. My first negative thought is, of course, a matter of finance. Who pays the expenses involved in flying the Azeri team to Vágar?

Seriously, I don't know how FIFA-related financing works =) Do the nations pay their own expenses, or contribute to some central fund?

Thing is, I can't see Azerbaijan vs. the Faroe Islands getting more than a few thousand viewers (even if every single Faroe Islander watched on his/her own television, even the babies, they'd only contribute 45,000 viewers, after all) or generating a lot of interest from sponsors. Even if one of those teams plays Northern Ireland, they automatically draw in tens of thousands of British viewers at least.

Still, I'd like to see it happen.