Despite the enormous success of Euro 2008, it looks likely that Uefa will expand the tournament from 16 teams to 24 by 2016.
Uefa have a meeting pencilled in for late September this year when the main item on the agenda will be the progress of stadium construction in Poland and Ukraine who are due to joint host Euro 2012.
But after the proposals submitted by the Scottish and Irish Football Associations last year on a 24 team competition were agreed by all 53 Uefa member nations on Saturday, it seems extremely probable that they will be ratified in full at the September get together.
Of course, it’s not difficult as to why so many national federations support the move. 16 teams qualified for Euro 2008 meaning that 37 didn’t. And under a 24 team qualification process, the competition ‘nearly teams’ such as the proposing members, Scotland and Ireland, would have a much better chance of ending up with a slice of the finals cake.
Uefa President Michel Platini says that increasing the number of qualifiers won’t necessarily impact on the quality of the tournament. Speaking in Vienna he said;
“Remember, I won the Euros in 1984 (just you then Michel, not the other 10 French guys) when there were only eight teams.
“It is not certain it was better with eight teams than 16 or that 16 is better than 24 or 32 or 54.
I am not worried about the quality by increasing the number of teams. Countries like England, Denmark, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium, Serbia, Ukraine and Bulgaria all have the ability to participate in a European Championship.”
He’s right of course, but only to a point.
Euro 2008 was a wonderful tournament with only a couple of nondescript games. All of the matches were, at some level, competitive.
The old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ comes springing to mind.
Euro 2016 with 24 teams might be great. But, then again, it might not. Whittling down 24 sides to the 8 required for the quarter finals is a lot more complicated than promoting the top two sides in four groups of four. There’s a far bigger chance of having to sit through tactical matches and as well as teams adopting a no-lose mentality (unlike the majority of sides we’ve enjoyed watching over the past few weeks).
Uefa officials and national members would do well to give themselves a period of reflection and take a look in detail at exactly what occurred in Austria and Sweden before giving a bunch of also-rans false hope.