football

OPINION: Should International Football Be Scrapped Altogether?

October 10, 2017

- Grant Whittington

As another painstaking fortnight of international football reaches its conclusion, interest in England continues to sink to unimaginable lows following two abject displays in one-goal wins over Slovenia and Lithuania respectively.

Another long-winded qualifying campaign has overshadowed the Three Lions remarkable run in qualifying which now stands at 39 games without defeat – a record that dates back to a loss against Ukraine eight years ago.

However, this impressive statistic has in truth merely papered over the cracks when it comes to England’s habitual disappointment in major tournaments. It is difficult to gauge if England gain any benefit at all from frequent qualifying mismatches which sees them all too often playing mediocre teams in encounters with almost no intensity and entertainment as scarce as the national side featuring in the latter stages of tournament football.

World Cup finals and European championships have lost their representation of top-level football – an elitist ideology that promotes the pursuit of quality and leaves behind the spirit of participation. It highlights that the value of international football has diminished and all we want is our stars to show the same passion and commitment that they bring forth domestically – little wonder that the vast majority of fans prefer watching their club over their country.

It begs the question, is it time to abandon qualifiers or scrap international football altogether? We look at what can be done to restore national pride in our beautiful game and revive the international scene back to its glory days – remember 1966?

  1. Reduce The Number Of Friendlies

This concept would certainly be met with approval by every top-flight manager in Europe. Injuries to star players in the games that mean nothing are infuriating and simply a waste of everybody’s time. Some warm-up matches may be a worthwhile exercise and can be viewed as essential preparation – England’s exhilarating 2-3 win in Germany prior to the 2016 Euros is a prime example of when a ‘friendly’ is a contradiction of its affable connotations.

Cutting back on the number of lacklustre friendlies would also provide an instant fix for fixture congestion and give club-level coaches more time training with their players.

Even in non-competitive games, the best need to be constantly competing against the best to generate strong appeal. After all, meaningless games will remain meaningless until you stir some anticipation or consequences.

  1. Create A Two-Tier Qualifying System

Creating a pre-qualifying ‘school’ or league for the smaller countries of international football would eradicate the endless succession of uninteresting, uncompetitive, pointless qualification games. Pitting minnows against minnows would see the likes of San Marino and Luxembourg go into a match with a genuine chance of achieving a positive result, rather than hailing the prevention of restricting their opponents to single figures as a moral victory.

International football lacks the competitive uncertainty of the Premier League where anybody can beat anyone on a given day. Burnley visited the defending champions on the opening Saturday of the season and came away from Stamford Bridge with maximum points. This element of surprise simply doesn’t exist in the distended international qualifying process – Italy will never slip up against the Faroe Islands and in these circumstances, it is simply a project of damage limitation.

It will provide an incentive for the smaller nations to gain promotion to the higher tier and the heavyweights of international football would be tested in much tougher groups, thus giving the significance of qualifying for a major tournament the exertion and prestige it deserves. Not only would teams be playing for a place in the finals, they would be fighting tooth and nail to avoid dropping into a lower tier – it is a win-win situation for everyone. If you still remain unconvinced, just imagine a double-header of England vs. Italy followed by Spain vs. Germany.

  1. Condense The Number Of World Cup and European Championship Spaces

The expansive vision of FIFA and UEFA has been to the detriment of the competition which has become overcrowded and overloaded in recent years. 32 countries will compete in next year’s World Cup with proposals to increase this number in later editions of football’s most revered competition.

Only the strongest nations in qualifying should be present in the landmark tournaments. Halving the World Cup to a 16-team event would place greater emphasis on performances in qualifying and ensure the competition is cut-throat, lively and unpredictable – making it the global spectacle that has symbolised international football as much more than just a sport.

Undoubtedly, something needs to rediscover the soul of international football as it has continues to be monotonous and dull for the majority of football enthusiasts. It may be an exaggeration to claim international football is dying, but it needs to be saved before it’s too late.

For now, let’s get back to the excitement and buzz of the Premier League. Roll on Saturday.

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