EURO 2016 : The good, the bad and the ugly sides of the new format

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As we all know the 15th edition of the UEFA European Championship (EURO 2016) is already on it’s way.

The tournament started from 10th June in France and will be concluded on 10th July. The International championships are always special and they have a different charisma as compared to the club and league games. This is the first edition of the Euros where 24 teams will take part. Earlier, only 16 teams were taking part in the tournament.

Under this new format, the finalists will contest a group stage consisting of six groups of four teams, followed by a knockout stage including three rounds and the final. The last Euro championship had 16 teams which were divided into 4 groups. Due to addition of 8 more teams, the group number increased to 6 in order to accommodate the increased number of teams. The six groups (A to F) would still contain four teams each, with the top two from each group still going through to the knockout stage.

In the new format however, the four best third-ranked sides would also progress, leaving 16 teams going into the knockout stage, ahead of the usual quarter-finals, semi-finals and final, and only 8 teams going out at the group stage.

Well this is a new taste for everyone. More teams means more matches. And more matches means more excitement. To be fair every new start has a certain number of pros and cons. EURO 2016 is no exception and here we are going to look a little deeply.

Good things are always meant to be put in first. So let us take a look on the pros of a “24 teams” EURO 2016.

The Good:

As I mentioned above, more countries taking part in an international tournament means more matches are to be played. More matches played result in more fun. Well it’s true. It’s a known fact that football is more of a club game than National game unlike cricket. So football fans are generally deprived of following their favourite national teams more regularly. So this 24 teams EURO 2016 provides us a lengthier international tournament.

Again 24 countries participating in an European championship means there is chance for more countries, especially the smaller minnow countries, to take part in the biggest stage of Europe. Countries like Albania are competing for the first time in an European Championship. Certainly EURO 2016 has provided a platform for many countries to prove their worth on the biggest stage.

The players from the smaller countries who do not get a platform to showcase their talents to bigger clubs are provided with a glorious chance. The European Championship is arguably one of the best stages to prove your talents and earn a move to a bigger club. The careers of many young players can be redefined here. We are already witnessing that the players of Hungary and Poland have impressed many fans and clubs by their mesmerizing talents. This is one of the most eye catching features of a 24 teams Euro.

Now let’s a look at the negative side of the new format.

The Bad:

24 teams mean 16 teams will go in to the knock out rounds. By simple mathematical calculation choosing the best 16 teams out of the 24 teams which are divided into 6 groups is always a difficulty.

As I mentioned in the starting top two teams from each group will qualify which makes it 12 teams who qualify without much of a jeopardy. But the confusion lies while deciding the next 4 teams. According to the new format the four best third ranked sides in the respective group qualifies for the knockout stage. The four best third-placed teams are determined according to the following criteria:

Higher number of points obtained; Superior goal difference; Higher number of goals scored; Fair play conduct; Position in the UEFA national team coefficient ranking system.

Here lies all the dilemma and the questions. Many small countries might feel these criteria as a little harsh on them if they do not qualify because of their inferior coefficient ranking as compared to a highly ranked team if they are tied on points obtained, goal difference and higher number of goals scored. Here is where UEFA should have distinctly made some rules so that no country feels that they have their place in the knockout rounds snatched.

One of the other major drawbacks of this new format is that many teams, especially the smaller minnows, are looking for that illusive third spot to qualify. For example let us take the example of the England vs Slovakia match where Slovakia wanted a draw throughout the match, because a draw would give 4 points from 3 matches and would put them in the drivers’ seat to be one of the 4 best 3rd ranked teams. Had only 2 teams were allowed to qualify from the group, Slovakia would have come and wanted to play football instead of looking for a dull draw.

The new format has also been criticized by people at top posts of different agencies. UEFA’s general secretary Gianni Infantino previously described the format as “not ideal” due to the need for third-ranked teams in the group stage advancing, leading to a difficulty in preventing situations where teams might be able to know in advance what results they need to progress out of the group, leading to a lack of suspense for fans, or even the prospect of mutually beneficial collusion between teams.

The Ugly:

Well, nothing can be! In fact, from the next time onwards UEFA should allow 32 teams to take part in the championship just like the world cup. It will result in more matches, more fun and lesser confusions.

This European Championship already has been exciting with many late goals. Not taking this pros and cons seriously, the football fans should have a enjoyable time watching the Euros back in their homes or in the stadiums. However fans in EURO 2016 have been notorious and have created many a nuisance including flares and clash between different set of fans. Hopefully no more such instances will hamper the tournament. EURO 2016 has already given us some surprises. Hope the best team wins the 15th edition of European Championship.

Photo by L’oeil et l’index

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