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Monday, September 8, 2008

An Argument for Change: Smaller Nations Should Qualify from Their Own Group

England Press Conference

Martin Samuel of The Times of London had an interesting article today where he opined that smaller nations such as Andorra et al sully international competition. His comments were made after England's 0 x 2 win in Barcelona at the weekend during WC 2010 qualification.

"Andorra are a useless team, though, and this was a useless fixture. There was no charm in the event, no romance, no thrill of David trying to bring down mighty Goliath. Andorra knew that they were going to lose; the only issue was by how many, so they attempted to destroy the game or, better still, to aggravate the opposition into impotent fury.

They played throughout like a team who had had three men sent off, clustered on the edge of their penalty area, clearing the ball long and reassembling for the next wave of attacks, the sole difference being that there were 11 blue shirts on the field. This made it hard for the only team trying to play football, with simply too much traffic between England’s players and the target."

Fabio Capello

Mister Capello had his own views from the England bench:
“Andorra played only to waste time, not to score goals. Going to Croatia is a difficult game, but it is more exciting. Games like this are not difficult, just dangerous. After 25 minutes I did not like this, because there is no challenge. Michel Platini, the Uefa president, is making changes in the Champions League, so maybe you should ask him and Sepp Blatter, of Fifa, whether they will change this also.”
The View from Andorra

"We are a very small country and we can only just kick around a bit,” Toni Lima, the Andorra defender, admitted, although there were 11 of those (Capello said nine, but he was probably being polite). John Terry went down and I offered my hand to help him up, but he wouldn’t give me his. I told him we are not top players like him and we have to do what we can do, but he seemed upset about it.”

Source: Times of London, 08 September 2008.

John Terry was upset at something? ;-)

My Plan
  • Since these teams have relatively no chance to qualify under the current seeding process, why not place all of the smaller nations into one qualifying group: Andorra, Cyprus, Faroe Islands, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, and San Marino. (Cyprus, Luxembourg, and Malta have professional players; the other, in most cases, do not).
  • The winner would enter a "play in" for the actual UEFA or FIFA competition, respectively. Then, over a two game tie, there will be a significant reward: Direct qualification, which may alleviate the stated concerns about sporting behavior and integrity. After seeing how well Cyprus played against Italy on Saturday, we might see a few pleasant surprises. But as things stand, we will have more games such as Andorra x England.
What do you think?

Should they be grouped together or remain minnows in a big sea?

  • On 10 September, Luxembourg defeated Switzerland for their first win in 36 years.

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