Go big or go home – the 24-team Euro divides opinion and entertainment levels

By on September 7, 2014

Qualifying is undoubtedly closed to ruined with the change in format to European Championships this summer. Europe’s big seven all have no reason to fret over their spots in the finals, with none set to face each other in Qualifying, and unless two of them show an incredibly poor performance and meet in the qualifying playoffs, won’t. The closest qualifying will come to a big name meeting is perhaps Italy-Croatia, Belgium-Bosnia, or England-Switzerland, qualifying’s only three guaranteed match-ups between Europe’s representatives at the World Cup over the past summer. Theoretically, you could qualify for the finals with just two wins in your group.

Fine, let qualifying be ruined – it isn’t the main event anyways. At least we will be able to see all of the big guns in the finals without sweat. And as many people are saying, the World Cup is the main event, let the smaller nations, the Scotland’s of the world, have chance at the Euros. Well, now they will. In fact, those countries theoretically could be able only to win two matches all the way up to the knockout stages of the finals, and still make it through to the Round of 16.

But the problem is, it may only be harder for miracles to happen once they get to the latter stages of the finals. The limelight will be shared, but a team like Scotland could realistically win it like Greece did in 2004. For, back then, once you got into the finals and into the knockout stages a few lucky wins got you far into the tournament. Now, with a Round of 16 added, and all of the good teams left with hardly a chance of not being there, there will be one more tough knockout round for, say Greece, to pass and draw a hard team.

In the end, qualifying, the group stages, and in some part the Round of 16 are all push-overs for the big teams. Unless they are quite unlucky and draw each other in the Round of 16, then the top seven will all be in the Quarterfinals anyways.

In the World Cup, a 32-team finals format, every step of the way matters. If a nation draws a tough group, then it is more than likely some big guns can go home early on – the reigning champions Spain went out at the group stages this summer. But since qualifying for the latter stages will be so easy in the new Euro format, that won’t happen. The latter stages will be largely the same, except with more junk before it. It will give the smaller nations a chance at a major tournament, but then they will all but find themselves eliminated in the early knockout stages.

The only solution would be to move at a 32 team format, however, that would render qualifying even more pointless for the top 15 to 20 teams, considering the number of nations in UEFA is just over 50. At least, though, it would allow for a slightly tougher finals for the big guns. Yet even then, it will be far to easy for the big teams. UEFA is not FIFA, who governs all nations and has at least 25 teams gunning for the knockout rounds of the World Cup. Even qualifying for the tournament is a tough process – Sweden missed last summer’s tournament and Portugal, one of Europe’s top seven, only made it by beating the Swedes in a playoff match. But UEFA doesn’t have that level of competition – to be smaller than the a World Cup is much better to keep their quality contained. And even with a 16-team format the odd outsider or two qualifies anyways. For the Scotland’s of the world, a run to the Quarterfinals in 2012 would have been incredible and memorable, but it no longer means anything if it’s as easy as it could theoretically be come 2016.

About Alex Morgan

Alex Morgan, founder of Football Every Day, lives and breaths football from the West Coast of the United States in California. Aside from founding Football Every Day in January of 2013, Alex has also launched his own journalism career and hopes to help others do the same with FBED. He covers the San Jose Earthquakes as a beat reporter for QuakesTalk.com and his work has also been featured in the BBC's Match of the Day Magazine.