A crowded house: Why the continental championships and World Cup should be aligned

LET’S be frank, qualifying tournaments have become tedious – bloated and repetitive, full of over familiarity, largely predictable (don’t say that in Amsterdam this summer) and too much cannon fodder. Sometimes, you forget if you’re watching a European Championship or a World Cup qualifier. So here’s an idea. Why not use the continental tournaments as a qualifying competition for the World Cup? You can almost hear the outrage at UEFA and FIFA headquarters, in fact, given that UEFA is in Nyon and FIFA (those characters that are still free to roam, that is) is holed-up in Zurich, they can probably … Continue reading A crowded house: Why the continental championships and World Cup should be aligned

If the Nordics get the euros…

IT’S GOOD NEWS that the Nordic football associations are considering making a joint-bid for either Euro 2024 or 2028. The region has been under-used by UEFA and FIFA, hosting one European Championship in 1992, one World Cup in 1958 (neutral Sweden after WW2) and three European Cup-Winners Cups (Goteborg, Copenhagen and Stockholm). The plan is for a four-country approach, with Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden involved. Given that UEFA have, disastrously, opted for a pan-European competition for 2020 (which will include Copenhagen) four seems a magic number. But expectations may have to be tempered around crowd potential of such a … Continue reading If the Nordics get the euros…

The rise of Albania. Why?

NEXT YEAR’S European Championship is going to be a strange affair – Wales, Northern Ireland, Iceland and now Albania have all qualified, bringing a whole new perspective on the tournament. The sceptics will suggest that UEFA’s accountants must now be wondering who will turn up to watch some of the “dead-rubber” group games that will undoubtedly characterise a bloated Euro 2016, but if they were aiming for a more democratic competition, Michel Platini and co. have achieved just that. But why have Albania, for so long one of Europe’s also-rans, suddenly become a credible force in European football? Is there … Continue reading The rise of Albania. Why?

GOTP Italia: Euro ’68 – Burying the ghost of North Korea

I walked past a men’s hairdressers in downtown Bologna and a giant photo of an Italian football team stared out at me through the window. It’s not an uncommon site in a coffee bar, tobacconist or barber to have such adornments – before the corporatisation of Britain, which made people that cut hair into technicians, you could often find evidence of the proprietor’s favourite football team on the wall. One of the reasons I liked going to my neighbourhood barber was that he would update me on local football gossip before discussing the goings-on at Burnley, not to mention the … Continue reading GOTP Italia: Euro ’68 – Burying the ghost of North Korea