First up, apologies for the lack of new things to read over the last few weeks! Let’s just say life has been pretty hectic… But there’s good news – the Ashes start tonight/have already started/have already finished (depending on when you’re reading this). However I have chosen not to bore you with another entirely biased blog on why England will win and will instead focus on something a little different.
Last night saw the first ever international football game involving Gibraltar, who only gained full UEFA membership in May this year. This means that they will be able to qualify for the forthcoming 2016 European Championships, although they don’t yet have full FIFA membership so cannot attempt to make any World Cups. Although their highly impressive 0-0 draw away at Slovakia suggests otherwise, I have that horrible feeling that Gibraltar may be another one of these newly-formed state teams that struggle to concede fewer than 5 goals per match, let alone score one.
Take San Marino for instance – they have only ever won one game since playing their first official match in 1986 (a 1-0 win over Liechtenstein in a friendly) and their all-time top goalscorer, Andy Selva, has just 8 goals. Although they may have the fastest goal in World Cup qualifying history (who could forget Davide Gualtieri’s 8.3 second goal against England in 1993? [Ok, maybe if you weren’t alive you are exempt]) the stats don’t read well at all. Their biggest loss was 13-0 at home against Germany in 2006, whilst they have only secured the solitary victory and five draws (most notably against Turkey in 1993), with only two of those ties coming in competitive games. They have an all-time goal difference of -468 (meaning they concede on average a fraction under 4 goals a game) and have only ever scored 19 goals. In qualification for the 2014 World Cup, they failed to gain a single point (although the group was quite a tough one), conceding 54 goals and only scoring a solitary reply.
I am being quite harsh here picking on San Marino, as there are quite a few other teams in Europe who are equally as woeful, but they are the team ranked equal 207th (or last) in the FIFA world rankings. Alongside them are Bhutan (whose heaviest loss was 20-0 against Kuwait in 2000) and the Turks and Caicos Islands (I’d be very impressed if you’d even heard of them!). These are teams who, until the turn of the century, weren’t even allowed to attempt to qualify for major tournaments and even now they have to go through preliminary rounds to even be able to face the major teams. UEFA, however, still allow teams like San Marino and Andorra to come up against the likes of Spain and the Netherlands despite the fact that it is not a question of if they (the big teams) will win, but how many goals they will score.
UEFA should really take a look at what the other administrative bodies from the other continents do. When qualifying for the World Cup in Asia, for example, the bottom 16 teams in the continent (according to the FIFA rankings) are sorted into a knockout round involving eight ties where the winners of each progress to the next round. The second round then incorporates the next 22 teams as well as the previous winners and they contest another knockout round before the winners are put into five groups of 4 with the top five ranked Asian teams. The top 2 from each group then go into two more groups of 5 where the top 2 automatically qualify for the World Cup and the third-placed teams play-off against each other before the winner of that then takes part in an intercontinental play-off against the fifth-placed team from South America.
Although that paragraph was quite long-winded, the essential of it is that the qualification process starts with competitive games between the ‘worst’ teams. As a result, these more equal teams get the opportunity to play competitive games against those of a similar standard, giving them a chance of victory, whilst the bigger teams get to play more competitive games that will prepare them more for the test of the World Cup. It would make so much sense to do this in Europe – get San Marino, Liechtenstein, Andorra etc. to play against each other in qualification before moving on to the next load such as Lithuania and Latvia before moving onto the ‘big boys.’
Although drubbings against such teams are quite fun to some fans, especially those with fantasy international teams, for the majority they are pointless games. Let’s help not just our own team but also those who are suffering as a result of this out-dated, ego-centered system and give the poorer teams a chance of actually scoring goals and winning games. I do hope Gibraltar prove me wrong though!
On a final note… COME ON YOU POMS!!