Tournaments: Inclusion vs. Exclusivity

This is the last year the Euro tournament will consist of 16 teams, because at France 2016 the field will open up to 24 teams.  Paul Wilson at the Guardian is none too happy:

Put simply, if Uefa cared one jot about the welfare and comfort of paying football fans it would never allow such an unwieldy alliance again. The whole point of a European Championship is that it is not a sprawling World Cup, but rather a streamlined festival of football that can be watched in one place in little over a fortnight. That is what fans think, anyway.

“That’s what fans think, anyway”?  I’m sure if you asked the fans located in the smaller European countries they might like a little more inclusion.

That said, I think this point-0f-view is valid.  One of the things that sets Euro apart from the World Cup isn’t just the absence of teams from rest of the world, but also the fact that the tournament is shorter and there are fewer mismatches in the early rounds.  The increase in teams might bloat the tournament a bit and make the quality of soccer go down.

But I ultimately think it’s a good move for UEFA because I don’t think national team tournaments are really about the quality of soccer.  As I’ve expressed with my symphony analogy, there isn’t enough time for these top players to play together to produce the kind of innate teamwork that marks the highest level of play.  The Euro, the Copa America, and the World Cup are big parties for the casual fan to gather and support their country in one of few outlets of patriotism left.  Aside from the top teams like Spain and Germany, I don’t like the soccer that much, but even a snob like myself can appreciate that on the nationalism level it’s just a bit of old-fashioned fun.  So bring on Wales, Austria, Slovenia, Luxemberg, and whatever other smaller countries can crack the upper half of Europe’s 53 teams.





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