Euro 2020 qualification is shaping up with all of the big guns qualifying easy, but have the bigger nations just had it too easy this time?
UEFA has increased the competition from 16 teams to 24, their excuse is that more nations who normally don’t qualify will get that chance and Finland have reaped that reward as an example. Wales are their too. But at the same time increasing by 8 teams also means it is very unlikely that we will get any shocks. For example the Netherlands have failed to qualify for a couple of major competitions this decade and Italy not being at the 2018 World Cup was a major surprise. Increasing teams chances also means that the bigger nations can have off days and still qualify.
England are a good example of how qualifying for the competition has basically become mundane, boring and predictable. Yes if you’re an England fan you would love the fact that the nation scored 11 goals in their last two qualifying games and didn’t ship any in their 7-0 win over Montenegro and 4-0 victory over Kosovo. But once you see that a whole domestic weekend of Premier League football had to be shifted in order to see such a miss match it just makes no sense.
England are not the only ones. There has been huge victories for the likes of Portugal and Spain and Italy recorded a 9-1 win over Armenia. Talk about competitive football.
In truth it is hard not to think that qualifiers exist for two reasons: Gate receipts and for UEFA to spread their brand and sponsorship. The solution seems an easy one not to have a qualification process. Qualifying has simply become too easy for the big nations whilst other nations are producing miss matches. Yes lesser footballing nations need that competitive football and they will get that with the UEFA Nations League, a rather silly idea but better than friendlies. Though let’s remind ourselves that friendlies still exist.
So just have no qualification and have all European national sides qualify for the competition proper. True it means the likes of San Marino could get hit for 10 goals in the competition proper, but the match would still feel more important being in a major competition than tucked away on a Monday night in Group E.
Qualification is here to stay though and it is just a thought. For now international football seems quite redundant as long as it’s not one of the major competitions- it is an advert in the blockbusting and interesting movie that is domestic football.