Euro 2020 qualification is a farce

Yahoo Sports

We’re at the halfway point of qualification for next summer’s Euro 2020 tournament, and there’s been no shortage of action. Over the weekend alone, 10 teams scored four goals or more, and there’s only been one goalless draw in qualifying since March.

We were also treated to an action-packed six-goal thriller between bitter rivals Germany and the Netherlands on Friday. That wasn’t short on entertainment.

But there’s a big problem: that match was an outlier in what has become a farcical and dull qualification process.

Firstly, the Germany-Netherlands fixture is the only real “box office” match-up we’re going to get in a process that mostly sees lowly sides get beaten by far superior opponents.

That’s the reason 10 teams scored four goals or more—lots of these qualifiers are hugely one-sided.

After their 4-0 win on Saturday, England are now undefeated in World Cup and European qualifiers for 42 games—spanning nearly 10 years. But, like most England qualifiers, the match at Wembley was pretty dull, and against pretty average competition.

And, at the time of publication, there’s not really been any big shocks in qualifying, The biggest one we’ve probably seen is Croatia losing to Hungary.

The gulfs in class and lack of shocks cannot be helped, but the new expanded 24-team tournament has certainly turned qualification into a bit of a farce. Now, 24 of UEFA’s 55 members will qualify for the tournament.

If 44% of all teams go through, that almost makes it more difficult for the bigger nations to miss out!

Traditionally, a bigger nation has failed in qualification: in 2016 it was the Netherlands, in 2012, Belgium failed to qualify, and in 2008, it was England. While the Dutch failed to reach the 24-team format in 2016, failure is much less likely now, because of the new Nations League ‘safety net’.

In this edition, four of the qualification spots are awarded to the best performers in the UEFA Nations League, via playoffs. So, from example, if Portugal somehow struggle to finish in the top two spots of their group, they’ll have an extra safety net because they did so well in the Nations League.

This new qualification quirk is designed to give a second chance to the minnows, but it might just end up helping big teams who don’t deserve to go to the big show.

Euro 2020 will hopefully be a fantastic tournament, but the bloated qualification process lacks excitement, drama and any notion of peril.

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