The new European championship format now includes 24 teams. Have we taken it a little too far? Back in the 90’s, the Champions League was formed as a tournament for champions. UEFA soon expanded the format to include 2nd placed, then 3rd placed and even fourth placed teams. Too much money was being made for anyone to question the legitimacy of a “Champions” League that included Liverpool.
It was only in 1998 that the World Cup moved from 24 to 32 teams. Why do we keep on diluting the quality of the tournaments? Surely it is better to keep the quality higher by excluding teams that have no chance of winning. The very fact that the European Championships now has only 8 teams less than the World Cup indicates that UEFA are delusional when it comes to assessing the quality of their own competitors.
Furthermore, the group stages in this year’s European championship will be a farce. Only 8 out of the 24 teams will be sent home at the group stage which will mean that there will be plenty of dead rubber matches. Do we really want to see Spain rest all their players for the last game because they already have four points and are guaranteed qualification?
Bigger is better
The Euros only come around every 4 years. Why shouldn’t we extend the format to include 8 additional sides? Competition has increased as has the number of countries participating in the qualification process. The African Cup of Nations has 16 teams (played every 2 years), so it makes sense for the European equivalent to have 24 teams.
Ireland wouldn’t have qualified if the format had been kept to 16 teams. After a very tough group that included the World Champions Germany, a strong Polish outfit and their great Celtic rivals, Scotland, the Irish managed to claim third place. A play-off was still required to secure a richly deserved qualification. Having smaller nations such as Ireland at the Championships adds to its overall appeal.
Europe has the strongest leagues in the world with the best players. Why shouldn’t this be reflected in a larger tournament? There will still be shocks in the group stages and more supporters will be able to root for their team and that’s what football is all about.