Comment: Time to say goodbye… to meaningless competitive internationals

UAE 10 Malaysia 0. Saudi Arabia 7 Timor-Leste 0. Australia 5 Bangladesh 0. Qatar 15 Bhutan 0. Iran 6 Guam 0. South Korea 8 Laos 0. Kuwait 9 Myanmar 0.

Pretty awful reading isn’t it? 

This is one batch of World Cup qualifying matches from September 3 as we sit with the complete opposite of bated breath for England’s encounter with San Marino later today.

As Roy Hodgson’s troops travel to Stadio Olimpico in Serravalle to face the perennial whipping boys in Euro 2016 qualifying, the long-running debate surrounding these David vs. Goliath matches reappears.

The two nations have met on five occasions previously and the aggregate score is 31-1 overall in England’s favour. 

San Marino’s record in their past three World Cup and European Championship qualifying campaigns is won 0, drawn 1, lost 35, goals scored two, goals conceded 173. 

A 36th loss against England is a foregone conclusion, and with England pretty much already qualified as usual, it is time for the format to be changed.

This problem is not only on the European scale either. This is happening on a grander scale as we’ve already seen.

This rugby-like scoring is becoming more and more common and the club vs. country debate usually comes into the fray too.

Take previous Manchester United teams where Park Ji Sung and Shinji Kagawa were called up for these kinds of matches constantly, the air miles accumulated are ridiculous and it is difficult for the players and the managers to try and juggle the two.

It’s the same for City now with the amount of South American talent at the club.

In 2001, Australia’s record international win of 32-0 against American Samoa led to the introduction of preliminary qualifying rounds in the Oceania Football Confederation for the 2006 World Cup.

Following Germany 2006, Australia left the comfort of Oceania to join the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), where the standard of football is significantly higher.

In the AFC, and North America’s Concacaf zone, as well, preliminary play-offs and multiple group stages have been introduced to phase out the weaker nations.

Uefa, European football’s governing body, with more members, 53, has so far resisted such a move, despite the fact it has long-winded qualifying stages in its club competitions.

It is time to bring in preliminary rounds for Europe’s and the worlds minnows before getting into the meatier more meaningful match ups further down the line.

This could actually help the weaker countries as they potentially would be involved in more competitive match ups thus improving their chances of winning the occasional match.

Plus after a few wins in these prelims they could actually earn the right to compete against the big boys for real.

A change in this format would obviously reduce the amount teams in the main qualifying draw, and placing five teams in each group would limit the amount of qualifiers each country would have to play, and of course each one would be more competitive.

It is of course a story in itself to see that the average Joe window cleaner or decorator can fulfill a lifelong ambition and play a football match against the best player or team in the world.

This is why we love the beautiful game so much. But football isn’t just a game any more, and something has to change from the top.

The Premier League and England are one of the most affected too. Without a designated winter break thrown into the debate, its difficult to feel confident of success on the European or international stage any time soon.

Image courtesy of England Football Official via YouTube, with thanks.

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