Cup of Woe for Europe – Special Comment


When they came for the French, no-one said anything because they brought it on themselves and the whole soap opera was pretty hilarious anyway.

When they came for the Greeks, nobody said anything because, let’s face it, Greece were pretty lousy anyway and we didn’t expect any better. Then they came for the Slovenes and nobody said anything because at least we managed our first qualifier even if it was England, and most of us were pretty happy for the USA anyway.

Then Serbia, Denmark, and Italy were eliminated and we woke up and smelled the cappuccino. Four through, six out. And each of those four came through a group where they had eliminated one of the six others. So we had to face it. Europe is having an appalling World Cup.

There, we said it. Including the late events of today which failed to rescue any European pride, there can be no getting away from the fact at this point that the World Cup has been less than stellar for the qualifying countries from UEFA.

We will admit not as lousy as for the host continent, but way below par for the continent that had six out of the eight quarter finalists in 2006 and the same in 1998. Last time out, all four semi-finalists came from Europe.

It’s taken till the final day of the Group stages to get more than that number into the last 16.

Lies, damned lies and we suck!

European sides have played 29 matches against non European sides. Their record is awful with ten wins, ten draws and nine losses. 32 goals have been scored and 28 conceded.

Remove however the Dutch and Germans from that though, and the record is pitiful with just six wins, ten draws and nine defeats. The goal difference is 24-27 against them, and that includes seven of Portugal’s in their win over North Korea.

Remove that somewhat freakish match too, and Europe scored just 17 goals in 24 games against non-continental teams.

With Switzerland’s dismissal, only six out of 13 have progressed compared to two out of three for CONCACAF, and a 100% record for South America. Even Asia with 50% progressing scored higher and they were carrying North Korea.

The failure of the African sides may have attracted more of the columnists’ attention (Ghana’s Progress Saves African Embarrassment – Special Comment), but there is no doubt that Europe’s failure will increase pressure on the number of places reserved for Europe at the World Cup.

South America is in a good position to demand that their allocation is increased but given that Brazil will host the 2014 tournament, they are unlikely to be allowed to have five out of nine others qualifying automatically. They might not lose their place however, resulting in a net gain in effect as someone will get the place Brazil would have taken. Perhaps the fifth placed side will avoid the ignominy of a play off. Perhaps, they may give the extra place to CONCACAF who normally lose that play-off.

New Zealand’s performance may see Oceania’s winners saved a play-off, but the Kiwis seem to be on their way to the Asian Conference anyway, which may dramatically strengthen Asia’s claim for another place, as if the excellent showings of Japan and South Korea hadn’t already.

In the long term, the boffins at UEFA will look for reasons why Europe’s challenge did not meet expectations. Many will point to tired players playing long seasons, but UEFA are unlikely to admit that publicly, as it is their greed which has led to a ludicrous number of games being necessary to decided the club champions of Europe. Roughly 2/3 of the sides entering the ‘Champions League’ weren’t even champions in the first place.

They may well blame the number of qualifying games each national side had to play though, as less international games wouldn’t hit them in the pocket. The break up of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia created an extra 18 countries to accommodate in the qualification stages. In addition, teams appeared representing San Marino and Andorra.

It has been suggested that the minnows play a pre-qualifier group to gain access to the main draw. This works in other sports, like tennis’s David Cup. It would also give fans of sides like Liechtenstein a chance to see their side win once in a while.

The national football associations are likely to object though as internationals are their best source of revenue and some of them need as many home games as possible to appease varying competing regional aspirations to host games.

Might they consider limiting the number of South Americans playing in European club sides? That would look so incredibly petty and fans would take some convincing that excluding players from the countries who have performed well in the World Cup, somehow improves the game.

Besides, when was the last time clubs acquiesced to measures that hampered their ability to be competitive, merely because it would assist the national side?

The club v country pendulum in Europe has swung way too far the other way, which may indeed give you a clue as to what lies behind Europe’s failure. Eventually, the power of the clubs was going to have a negative consequence and this may well be it.

However to reverse it, some who have been getting wealthy may have to make sacrifices. There’s more chance the Germans will pull through, win the whole thing and mean we can sweep this under the carpet.

Not just Europe, it’s been a lousy World Cup for the EPL too


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