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Friday, April 29, 2011

World Cup qualification: Worst runner-up problem (UEFA)

In the 2010 UEFA FWCQ, Norway were the worst runner-up. I was looking at the groups and I thought at a different approach:

  • rank the group winners using only games against the teams ranked 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th.
  • the worst group winner will play-off against the runner-up from its group
  • the other runner-ups play against each other
In the 2010 FWCQ, Denmark were the worst group winners. Using the same pairings, this is how the play-offs would have looked like:

Portugal vs Denmark
Norway vs France
Russia vs Bosnia and Herzegovina
Ukraine vs Republic of Ireland
Greece vs Slovenia

About me:

Christian, husband, father x 3, programmer, Romanian. Started the blog in March 2007. Quit in April 2018. You can find me on LinkedIn.


  1. I don't like it. By winning your group, I think you have already done enough to secure a spot at the WC. I also fail to see why Norway deserve to be given an equal chance to qualify based on two defeats against Netherlands and two draws with Iceland at the cost of Denmark who took four points against Portugal and two wins against Sweden. Europe already has a problem with not always sending the best teams to the World Cup and this can only get worse if we begin to award play off spots based on mediocrity. Furthermore, I would be sickened by the prospect of facing the same team four times within the same qualifying cycle.

  2. I agree with Michele, and so, do not agree with Edgar.
    It would be like Spain won the World cup and then had to beat Holland again.
    If you win your group you are at the final tournament. No more matches for winners.

  3. No. No, I don't like it. A team shouldn't have to face a team they've already bested.

    Perhaps the weakest group winner against the weakest group runner up, and if they happen to be from the same group then so be it.

    However, I don't like the plan as a whole. Group winners deserve auto qualification. Though to be fair I don't like the worst runner up out system either. But the Euro nations wanted less games and the worst runner up is just going to have suck it up. I wouldn't object if they did go with my idea though. But they really should just go with 8 groups if you ask me, then it's 8 group winners and 2 best runners up qualifying automatically and 3 playoffs.

  4. There's also the option of going to 8 groups of 6 and have five teams eliminated in a pre play-off. Could have that over the 9 months between November and September of each qualifying, so that there were still enough competitive matches.

    Worst runner-up getting a shot is more important than San Marino getting slaughtered every week imo.

  5. @ Haakon

    More like slaughtered every month :)

    But anyway, even though I am a fierce advocate of all teams playing in the groups and being treated equally, if it was a straight choice between giving the worst runner up a shot or letting the bottom 5 teams in, I think I'd prefer to remove the bottom 5 teams.

    It really shouldn't have to come to that though. Euro 2008 was 7 groups and it was great. Even though my England got eliminated in that system, it was still great! Every group had 7 teams and 1 even had 8.

    And the 2006 World Cup ran to the system I wanted, 8 groups.