Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The last of the 32

This post will not make me popular, so let me say it from the start: it is about football teams and not countries. The best thing for these teams qualifying is that people can raise their flag and sing their anthem, because in terms of football quality, none will add anything to the tournament.
I have been watching many of these last play-off matches with disappointment, not just at the lack of quality, but also of the fact that in a 32-team World Cup this is a confirmation that there are really too many mediocre sides.
Honduras-Australia: yes the pitch was bad, but frankly that is just a useful excuse for a disciplined match from the Australians and a poor performance by the Hondurans. Will any of these sides contend for the World Cup title? Unlikely. Will they raise any eyebrows in the tournament? Even more unlikely.
Peru is likely to qualify, and being fifth in such a contested qualification as the South American one is always an achievement. That said, I am sure Peru will not raise any eyebrows either. They are from the hard and defensive side of South America, and is unlikely to win many friends, or add anything to the beautiful game.
In Europe we have three of four qualified teams: Switzerland, Croatia and Sweden. Of these, only Croatia, with its talented midfield and young players is one that we will want to see in the World Cup. Granted, the Swiss are a quality but too defensive side, while Sweden has to be credited for eliminating Italy from the World Cup, but little else.
The first World Cup since 1958 without Italy....
Of course they do not deserve to be there if they don´t qualify, but one has to wonder if the distribution of the groups is good enough: Poland won one group, Iceland another, and with all due respect for them, Italy is better than either of these sides, or Denmark and Ireland for that sake.
A World Cup without Italy will simply not be the same.
That brings me to Denmark and Ireland: of course as a Dane I support Denmark, but as a fan I have to face the truth that Denmark will add anything to the tournament, except, as with the Irish, to the beer sales in Russia.

Africa only has 5 spots in the World Cup, and is plausibly the only continent that deserves more, preferably instead of Europe (give the four play-off places in Europe to Africa!!!!!!): Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Nigeria and Senegal will all be exciting to watch in Russia, but countries like Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Zambia, Burkina Faso, Algeria.... Will all be sorely missed, and would have made the World Cup much more exciting than the four European teams that have qualified.

The World Cup in Qatar will have 48 teams. More for Africa, yes, but also more pretty mediocre sides, all to the excitement of mass nationalism (the football World Cup and the Olympics are the only good reason for countries to exist at all).
Expect a World Cup in Qatar with a lot of 0-0´s and second-rate matches.

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