In the last few days Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA, and Michel Platini, President of UEFA, have both come out and said that they would like to change the team numbers for the World Cup from Russia 2018, allowing more sides from further afield to compete.
Blatter wants to cut European sides out, allowing more from Africa, Asia and America. Platini on the other wants to increase numbers to 40, adding two teams from Asia, America and Africa as well as one more from Oceania and another from Europe. The question is would this decrease quality in favour of including lesser nations?
In our opinion, yes. Fans around the world want to see the best of the best compete – adding the likes of Tahiti, Solomon Islands, Fiji or Syria would be pointless. Yes they would get their moment in the spotlight but the mis-matches would be as pointless as having San Marino, Andorra and Malta in the qualifying stages.
Qualifying is there to rat out the poor sides, ones who do not deserve to go to the World Cup and allow the best to go – look at the European Play-offs – France vs Ukraine, Sweden vs Portugal. Just think, either Cristiano Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not be going to Brazil, and if Blatter and Platini have their way more of the World’s best players will miss out for the sake of footballers who are part-time and probably working in a bank, or a butchers in their local Town or City.
Secondly – at the moment we have 8 groups of 4 teams. That halves to 16 after the group stage…and makes it easy to schedule, keep losing half the teams until you reach the final. With 40 teams, you would have to half either 8 groups of 5 or 10 groups of 4, making it very confusing to organise. Platini wants to go with the first option, 8 groups of 5. This recreates nightmarish thoughts of another “Anschluss”, a nadir in World Cup history. This was in 1982 in Gijón when West Germany met Austria and This was in 1982 in Gijón when West Germany met Austria and one or two goals for Jupp Derwall’s side ensured both progressed.
Even for those of us with minimal grasp of the mysteries of history could predict what happened next. After Horst Hrubesch’s early goal, peace was declared, much to the fury of Algeria who contested their final Group Two game with Chile the day before. The non-aggression pact in Gijón knocked Algeria out.
After this trampling on sporting ethics, even FIFA felt galvanised to tweak the schedule, ensuring simultaneous kick-offs in the future. FIFA must also beware that such last-day group-stage grey areas will attract the attention of unscrupulous bookmakers.
On Top of that how many countries could single-handedly host 39 other nations, their infrastructure would have to be incredibly strong, airports would have to be huge to devour the thousands of fans travelling from all over the world. No doubt the tournament would have to be co-hosted.
There is no doubt that the key motivation behind all this is making more money, it’s about politics, pleasing federation leaders who want their team in the cup, and most of all a few votes come the 2015 FIFA President Election, for the position Platini wants and Blatter is desperate to stay in.
The fact these two are willing to sacrifice the quality of the show-piece of international Football for a wad of cash and a tick in their box is quite frankly disgusting. FIFA needs a shake-up, an independent commission and most importantly an environment where important decisions that affect all of football are not swayed by politics and cash. With FIFA shrouded with doubts over corruption, this could be the tipping point.