Friday, October 14, 2005

So was the UEFA Playoff Draw Truly Fair Play?

Just a little while ago I was talking with a friend about the UEFA WCQ draw and we got into one of those oh so fun soccer arguments. You know the ones that have nothing to do with on the field decisions. Oh you know them. Anyway, we were debating if it was fair to have two pots for the WCQ playoff draw. In case you do not know, Czech Republic, Spain and Turkey were placed in one pot while Norway, Slovakia and Switzerland were placed in another. Since you cannot play a team in your pot, the number of possible outcomes was severely reduced.

The most annoying thing about this for me is that they used the FIFA rankings to select what team goes in what pot. Don't get me wrong, it is fun to look at the monthly rankings and debate what it means, but as far as using them to influence who gets to go the World Cup, I think it is a bad idea.

I think a team should be judged by what that team has recently done, not what they were able to accomplish four years earlier. FIFA seems to think the same way since they no longer allow the World Cup Champions to gain automatic entry into the next finals. Also, what does it say about a side like Spain (currently ranked 8th) that they came in second behind 48th ranked Serbia and Montenegro. Should they get treated better then sides like Slovakia (45th) that beat Russia (30th) and challenged Portugal (8th) in their group?

I am not trying to take anything away from any of these teams, but I think that since each of these teams were second best in their groups, they should all be treated equally at the draw. Now my friend says that they want to give the "best" teams the better shot at making it to the Cup and by doing so they are making the Cup more exciting. I can understand this argument for the original draw in the group stages, but not in the playoff. I just don't believe a 'bad' team could play 10-12 matches against good European sides and manage to sneak into second place. All six teams earned their passage to the playoffs and all should be treated the same.

As far as the World Cup being less exciting, if World Ranking is the measure of excitement, why not forget about qualifiers all together and just have the top 32 teams in the rankings go on to the finals?

I think that any team that has made it through qualifiers will bring some excitement to the Cup, but I might just be naive that way.


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