top of page

UEFA Euro Qualifiers; Are they flawed?

England got off to a perfect start in their UEFA European Championship qualifiers this week. Victories against Italy in Naples and against Ukraine in London gave the Three Lions six points from six.

This is a promising start for England. It could be more than that. With lowly North Macedonia and Malta making up the rest of Group C, could England already be safely through to the 2024 tournament?

The seeding of Euro qualifying groups is based on the Nations League ranking. This is to incentivise teams to take the Nations League seriously.

This is a seriously flawed system though. Switzerland for example, with all due respect for their qualifying opponents, don't have to play any teams ranked in the top 50 of the FIFA World Rankings. They started their group with a 5 - 0 win over Belarus.

Similarly, Portugal have won 6 - 0 and 4 - 0 in Group J so far, with Liechtenstein bottom with no goals scored and eleven conceded after just two matches.

This of course creates problems with the same sides qualifying for most of the tournaments, but it does offer another problem; a lack of competitive matches.

In the four years between the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, England played only five games against the top 10 ranked sides, none of which were from outside Europe.

In this area of the game, men's International football can learn from women's football.

Whilst the qualifying mismatches are even worse, they take up less of the calendar, making way for genuinely competitive matches such as the Arnold Clark Cup and SheBelieves Cup.

In these tournaments, whilst top-ranked sides England and USA won the trophy, they had to beat some good teams on the way who properly tested them.

Even playing friendlies against competitive teams is far better preparation for the tournaments; England Women will play Brazil and Australia before the World Cup, both top 10 sides.

Underdogs such as Morocco and Saudi Arabia were well positioned for their World Cup shocks because of competitive friendlies played against top teams before the tournament.

In comparison, Spain played Sweden, Greece, Georgia and Kosovo in qualifying. The lack of competitive matches and their poor World Cup form are no coincidence.

A possible solution lies in the South American qualifying system.

Whilst the likes of Brazil and Argentina rarely struggle to beat lower-ranked sides such as Bolivia and Venezuela, they always get to play each other.

This is beneficial for all, as Brazil and Argentina get regular competitive games, whilst Bolivia and Venezuela aren't simply being beaten 3 - 0 every time they play.

Europe does have the Nations League, but it lacks incentive for the top sides. The competition is aimed at teams who need a play-off place. Scotland for example are virtually guaranteed a play-off place because of their promotion to League A.

If Europe were to split their teams into seven groups, several top teams would end up in the same group. There would be enough positions for them to all still qualify for the tournaments, but they'd also have properly competitive matches against each other.

Imagine a qualifying group with England, Germany and Spain.

A lack of competitive matches is not only poor preparation for tournaments but also sets Europe's best international teams back compared to their South American counterparts.

Whether it's this structure or another one, the European Championship qualifiers certainly need revamping.

1 view0 comments
bottom of page