Qualifying for Qualifiers – A step too far…or a brilliant concept?


Now the 2014 World Cup is nearly over, the question is being asked again by fans and managers alike about the pointless games, where players risk injury to beat bog-standard, lowly ranked teams in games that are foregone conclusions when the draw is made, and whether those sides should even be in the Qualifying process.

The likes of Liechtenstein, San Marino, Andorra, Luxembourg, Malta and the Faroe Islands rarely score a goal, let alone get a point or even threaten the goalkeeper – the only time they get points is when playing other minnows, who are marginally further up the Footballing ‘food chain’. In two games every few years, teams waste their time playing these nations and it must be demoralizing to be humiliated time and time again – San Marino may have scored against Poland but conceded over 50 goals in 10 games. Andorra similarly scored none and conceded 30, and Liechtenstein and Faroe Islanders mustered 3 draws between them in 20 games.

Lets take a look at these sides’ record in the latest qualifying rounds, including the bottom 9 teams.

Managers and players complain there are too many fixtures, playing home and away, and add friendlies to that there can be as many as 8 games a year, and finding time in a packed Domestic schedule puts strain on players and clubs because they pay the wages and need their top players to play in important fixtures. No wonder players pull out with supposed “Pulls, Strains and mysterious sudden injuries” that occur the game before a friendly.

It begs the question – should there be a qualifying tournament for the lower nations, so only the best few get through? Most of these teams’ players play for lower level teams either in their home country or in Italy, Spain or various other leagues – so would it make a difference?

Something that we think could work is either qualifiers before the start of qualifying, or the bottom team from each group of the last qualifying tournament should go into a relegation play-off – possibly a round robin table with only the top 4 entering the next competition at the Qualifying stage – similar to the Davis Cup system in Tennis. It would motivate the sides to do as well as possible not to finish bottom, giving a better standard of games, in theory. It could be staged over a summer, when the World Cup/European Championship take place, as these teams will not be involved in any way.

There were 53 teams competing in this World Cup Qualifying – even if just the worst 5 teams were cut out (using the system above) – it would take an entire group out. It would create more of a challenge for all teams involved, cutting out those two pointless games against minnows who you will inevitably gain 6 points from.

Would it raise the competition amongst these teams? We think it would! The likes of Moldova, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia and a few others really have a go, and have gone through this process of improving, even Azerbaijan have beaten a few sides, and taken points off Israel and Russia – but the aforementioned few mentioned further up the article don’t seem to be progressing at all.

If groups for the World Cup/European Championships were to be cut by one to 8 groups instead of 9 teams would play less pointless games and domestic competitions would not be disrupted as much, leaving players and coaches happier! The smaller nations would compete against each other, gaining valuable confidence because they know they have a chance of winning, unlike losing 17-0 over 2 games like San Marino did against Ukraine. Rather than chase the ball for 90 minutes and pick the ball out of the net multiple times, they would get more ball time, enhance skills, learn to play as a team and improve. Fans would also be saved the humiliation – put yourself in the shoes of San Marino or Andorra fans, who pay hard earned cash to see their nation play, only to watch the opposition rack up cricket-like scores…

On the flip side Euro/World Cup qualifying groups would be of higher quality, there would be less pointless games and tighter groups – and nobody would be embarrassed constantly – and the select few who qualify for qualifying will be there on merit rather than being gifted it, and becoming complacent.

This is the view of quite a few people – but FIFA don’t seem to see it this way. Do you agree? Should sub-standard nations be given a free ride, only to be hammered every game? Tell us what you think…