Sports, Cricket

WC draw raises old question over Euro qualifiers

Published : 08 Dec 2020 09:02 PM

A lacklustre draw for the 2022 European World Cup qualifiers could once again raise the old question over the format used by UEFA which some feel makes it too easy for the top teams and features too many mismatches, reports Reuters.

Although Monday’s draw in Zurich produced some interesting fixtures from a historical perspective -- such as England’s games against Poland and Hungary -- there were no heavyweight clashes to get the pulse racing.

This was by design rather than accident as the biggest teams were kept apart by the seeding system, leaving all of them with relatively straightforward routes to Qatar.

Even if the likes of Spain, Italy, France, Portugal, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and England fail to win their groups, they get a second bite of the cherry through the play-off system.

Under the European system, the continent’s 55 teams are divided into 10 groups of five or six, which in Monday’s case produced fixtures such as Germany v Liechtenstein, England v San Marino and the Netherlands v Gibraltar.

This, in turn, leads to the idea in Europe that the international break is ‘boring’ and provides an unwelcome interlude into the European club season.

England’s progress to the last World Cup was so serene that, when they beat Slovenia 1-0 to guarantee their place in Russia, bored fans threw paper planes onto the pitch instead of celebrating.

Yet, in other parts of the world, the international break is the highlight of the year, no more so than in South America which has found the ideal format for its region.

With only 10 teams and no real minnows, South America uses the simplest and fairest system possible: a single group where everyone plays each other twice.

When it was introduced for the 1998 World Cup qualifiers, some felt it was bloated and involved too many games, but instead it has flourished.

Featuring old rivalries such as Brazil-Argentina, Peru-Chile and Argentina-Uruguay, and some of the world’s top players, it routinely serves up drama and controversy in equal measures.

It has also allowed lesser teams such as Venezuela and Ecuador to improve enormously thanks to greater exposure to competitive matches.