What a wonderful 3 weeks of football we have had so far in Austria & Switzerland!!! And still a mouth watering final to come tomorrow night.
Euro 2008 has been full of good, attacking football and has provided us with great moments – great saves, great goals, great comebacks, much excitement and a dose of controversy. I’ve had the good fortune to watch every match and in terms of quality only one game has really disappointed – France v Romania in the first few days of the tournament was a shocker. Take the quarterfinals – Portugal v Germany, Croatia v Turkey, Netherlands v Russia & Spain v Italy. Now how many of those games did you tip with any confidence? Each one of them was a fascinating clash between teams who progressed by going out to win games.
So why has this Euro been so good and yet the last world cup so forgetful? In fact the last 5 world cups have been very ordinary…..apart from the odd game here and there. What’s the difference between Euro & the world cup that somehow results in such a vast difference in quality and excitement?
Well I could say its because England weren’t in it! But that wouldn’t be the whole truth. The reality is that the world cup finals are too big and that lends itself to too many teams playing too many mediocre matches, too many meaningless matches and too many games where teams set out from the start to get a draw. 32 is far, far too big for a World Cup. We should limit it to just 16 teams, spread it over 3 weeks and follow the format of the European Championships. FIFA have allowed the world cup to become an overblown fan festival rather than an exhibition of the best football in the world. Five teams from Africa, five teams from Asia, three from Concacaf. That’s 13 teams that are never going to win the world cup so why have them there?
Can’t you see it now? The top 10 from Europe, the top 3 from South America and 3 from the minnow confederations? Quality from start to finish but still the chance of upsets. It would be superb. A 16 team world cup would be a battle between the best of the best. There would be a bonus for the clubs too, in that more of their players will have the summer off and be fresh and ready for the following “arduous” season.
Its not rocket science. When you think back, the best world cups – those with the best football and the most excitement – were the world cups with 16 teams….Mexico 70, Germany 74 & Argentina 78 (though I admit Espana 82 remains my favourite!).
Higher quantity has resulted in lower quality.