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Friday, October 7, 2011

EURO 2016 qualifying: Platini's plan

In the November 2008 issue of uefadirect (page 12) it says:

"... the traditional system of groups of five or six teams (at least eight matches per team) will stand and the play-offs between third-placed teams will create and sustain interest."

It seems the system is about to change, as Mr. Platini came up with a different proposal at the full strategy meeting of the 53 member FAs (20-21 September in Limassol, Cyprus).

These are the details, according to Gazzetta dello Sport (the article is in the Premium section of Gazzetta dello Sport - similar to the ESPN Insider).

First phase - only group winners advance to the finals.
Second phase - the best of the non-qualified teams will contest the remaining spots, while the teams already qualified will be involved in great pre-Euro friendly tournament. All 53 members will receive a share of this friendly tournament TV rights.

You need to keep in mind there's no clear system proposed yet, but Gazzetta is talking about 13 groups of 4 in the first phase.

Looking at the EURO 2016 coefficient:

Rank - Team - Points

1 Netherlands        23402
 2 Spain              22525
 3 Germany            22144
 4 England            19944
 5 Italy              19455
 6 Ukraine            17951
 7 Croatia            17881
 8 Russia             17396
 9 Greece             17374
10 Sweden             17241
11 Portugal           17064
12 Denmark            16657
13 Hungary            16581
14 Bosnia-Herzegovina 15931
15 Serbia             15864
16 Slovakia           15732
17 Ireland            15492
18 Norway             15051
19 Turkey             14691
20 Slovenia           14554
21 Israel             14501
22 Czech Republic     14386
23 Switzerland        14251
24 Belarus            13471
25 Montenegro         13300
26 Finland            13221
27 Romania            13221
28 Belgium            12831
29 Poland             12751
30 Estonia            12651
31 Northern Ireland   12641
32 Latvia             12571
33 Armenia            12441
34 Scotland           12438
35 Austria            11911
36 Bulgaria           11115
37 Lithuania          10740
38 Georgia            10460
39 Albania            10450
40 Macedonia          10415
41 Wales               9695
42 Azerbaijan          9460
43 Iceland             9025
44 Moldova             8740
45 Cyprus              8581
46 Luxembourg          8130
47 Kazakhstan          7920
48 Liechtenstein       7865
49 Faroe Islands       7850
50 Malta               6080
51 Andorra             5320
52 San Marino          4560

There's a long way to go until the draw (February/March 2014), but looking at the current SPI ranking, we could have some interesting groups in the first phase



San Marino/Andorra

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 that much. Only 6 qualifying matches for the best teams? And afterwards they play only friendlies which are rather boring and will also hurt their rankings.

  2. Groups of 4. Fewer games for the minnows who aren't even guaranteed to draw a big name but six games does make it easier for a big team to fail.

  3. I wouldn't mind seeing a pre-euro tournament where some non-european teams would be included. Maybe we can bring back the Confederations Cup to every second year?

  4. Edgar?
    1. Why are you using SPI rankings they aren't even connected with the seeding?
    2. And Armenia are actually one of the strongest teams in pot 3! the last 3 competive matches of Armenia: 4-1 FYR Macedonia, 4-0 Slovakia, 4-0 Andorra and also only 1 win seperates Armenia from euro 2012 -, i think including Armenia as a minnow in pot 3 is just ridiculous, i am dissapointed with you

  5. friendly tournament with 13 teams? I'm already interested with the tournament system :). And 13x4 system has only one good side - the number of teams in all groups is even and equal, but 13 groups is the worst system ever, the influence of the ranking would be impossible, i've even wont be surprised if all top pot teams would gain 1st place, even Hungary could get a side like Belarus, Finland or Bosnia, while if there were more teams in a single group everything would be more fair and balanced.

  6. >Each of the 52 members will receive a share of this friendly tournament TV rights.

    All except France, well this is just great because it's a frenchmans plan

  7. My proposal: 5 groups of 10/11 teams, the funny part is that in my hypothetical system teams will only play each other at home or away rather than both home and away, in the current system teams play 8-10 matches, in my system they'll play 9-10 matches, some advantages:
    1. more teams to play with is much more interesting than playing the same team twice
    2. more fair draws as the pots are smaller, and things are less dependent of the rankings
    3. more fair system as there are twice as more teams to play with, and the possibility of a group of death is four times lessened, that'll also provide a more competive tournament
    4. grand teams can play away with lesser teams and at home with stronger sides
    5. in uefa system teams in a smaller group play 2 games less, while in my system only 1
    and some disadvantages:
    1. some teams would have a slight differnce between the number of away/home games
    2. some disadvanteges when rival or equal strength teams play only home or away, with fans missing an interesting match and no revenge games

  8. I understand the need for smaller groups, but this way the vast majority of them are going to be unbelievably boring.

    I've always thought there needed to be a tiered system.

    Also, within a four year cycle you're looking for EURO and World Cup qualificants, no real point in starting from scratch every two years.

    So, cycle starts right after the World Cup, clean slate (other than some sort of ranking used for seeding the following):

    1. 16 worst teams play 4 quick groups of 4, winners advance.
    2. Said 4 winners and the next 16 worst ranked teams (i.e. all but the best 20) play 5 groups of 4, first and second placed teams advance
    (at this point about a year has passed)
    3. This leaves 30 teams, 22-24 (depending on who hosts) of which are required for the EURO the following year. Have the top 10 qualify automatically, remaining teams go in 5 groups of 4, first and second qualify, third placed teams play a group of 5 for the remaining spots play a group of 5
    Now, EURO. Assuming UEFA stays at 13 spots.
    5. Have the top three finishes of the EURO qualify for the World Cup.
    This leaves 21 teams that were at EURO, add the 11 next best ranked teams at that point.
    6. 8 groups of 4, winners go to the World Cup, second placed teams make two groups of four, winners qualify as well.

    And that's it. More Bosnia-Serbia, less Germany-San Marino.

  9. @Felix 4 year cycle is horrible, i don't think that team that was good 3 years ago must participate in the world cup, also except the top 3 and the minnows all UEFA teams are very competive:
    Georgia-Croatia 1-0, Czech Republic-Lithuania 0-1, France-Belarus 0-1, Serbia-Estonia 1-3, Armenia-Slovakia 4-0/3-1, Azerbaijan-Turkey 1-0
    your system is good only for CONCACAF where the difference between the teams is great.

  10. You're just cherry picking results there. Hell, yes, I know that even England missed out on a Euro once (which is entirely different to Belarus winning one big game in a lifetime but not qualifying anyway). These don't happen all that often, and for every France-Belarus 0-1 we'resubjected to twenty Italy-Faroe Islands 7-1, Croatia-Luxembourg 4-0 etc. etc.

    Here, have the COMPLETE list of all EURO quarterfinalists since 1996 (that is, all four tournaments in the current format):
    4x Netherlands, Portugal
    3x Spain, France
    2x Germany, Turkey, Croatia, Italy, Czech Republic, England
    1x Russia, Greece, Denmark, Sweden, Serbia, Romania

    Allow me to reproduce the current UEFA rankings of these teams:
    1 Spain
    2 Netherlands
    3 Germany
    4 Italy
    5 England
    6 Russia
    7 Portugal
    8 Croatia
    9 Greece
    10 Sweden
    11 France
    12 Denmark
    13 Serbia

    18 Czech Republic
    19 Turkey

    24 Romania

    Notice something?

  11. In case you don't: The current UEFA rankings are HUGELY correlated with success over the last TWENTY years (keep in mind that the ranking itself is only based on the last FOUR years!).
    TWO years is very little time in international football.

  12. @Felix
    1. i already said that minnows like faroes or luxembourg not count, however even faroes can gain some points from northern ireland
    and also compare 1st placed teams throughout years
    2012 2010 2008
    RUS SVK -
    FRA SRB -
    Spain and Italy are the only top teams in the 4 year period, and only 5 teams were at top in the 2 year period, Notice something?
    In case you don't: in 2010 WC qual. Switzerland, Denmark, Slovakia and Serbia were at top of their groups. And also remember the performance of France and Italy at the WC 2010. Things change rapidly, Uruguay 1st outside Europe, before Copa America 2011 it looked like a joke...

  13. Well guess what, "Switzerland, Denmark, Slovakia and Serbia" all ranked in the top 20 anyway.
    My suggestion wouldn't have prevented any of those from qualifying at all.

  14. @Felix

    I like the idea of your system, but wouldn't there be a lot of friendlies and breaks for many countries? So that would mean smaller countries could have problems getting their players released. I think you'd have to have most countries involved at the same time (which is presumably what Platini is thinking of too), possibly have some pre-qualifications for the World Cup running in parallel with the last round for the Euro.

  15. Tiered system ok, but every team should be involved. Then it is enough to have 7 qualification groups, but still avoid groups of 7 or 8. System can be done similar to handball/volleyball tournament - taking over results from round 1 to round 2 - worst teams are eliminated in round 1. This way qualification competition also gets successively tougher/more exciting.

    Round 1 (53-hosts): 14 Groups of 3/4 (odd numbered and first even numbered groups have 4 teams); 4-6 matches (Sep/Oct/Mar); TOP3 advance; in Groups of 4 4th placed eliminated; merge qualifyers Group 1 with Group 2, G3+G4, G5+G6, G7+G8, G9+G10, G11+G12, G13+G14.

    Round 2 (42): 7 Groups of 6; take over results against 1st/2nd/3rd from Round 1; 6 matches against 1st/2nd/3rd from merged group (Jun/Sep/Oct); 7 Group Winners qualify for EURO/World Cup; for EURO with 24 teams 7 Runners-Up also qualify.

    Round 3 (12-18): Playoff for remaining 6-9 spots (Nov); for World Cup (7 Runners Up and 5 N3); for EURO with 24 teams (4 N3 receive bye, 3 N3 and 7 N4 playoff remaining spots; if more than 1 host, then reduce byes)

  16. What is the reason of UEFA to keep home and away series, i think a single game either at home or at away would be enough.

    @David, worst... tournament... system... ever...

    @Felix, top20 and top9 aren't the same.
    Teams that qualified both for the 2010 and 2006 WC:
    Teams that only qualified for a single WC in last two editions:
    well as you can see both are equal, but if we count that Germans were hosts at 2006, the worst qualified team in 2006: Spain would go to the second table and even worsen your theory, football is changing fast and thats why title holders don't qualify for the next WC/EURO, because thats old and primitive.

  17. i think they should go for 9 groups (7x6, 2x5)

    The winners and runners-up qualify directly (18)
    Also the best 3rd placed team qualifies directly which will make 20 with host france.

    The remaining 4 places are played out in a playoff between other 3rd placed teams.

  18. Why not just go for the easiest choice? 11 groups of 4 or 5 where top two would qualify. If there's one host only, the defending team would also qualify automatically.

  19. @Anonymous: That is indeed the current system, with 8 additional qualification spots. UEFA had stated before they want to keep it at 9 groups, as this ensures all groups with maximum 6 participants for the time being (which also means only 10 match days+ 2 playoffs will suffice). It is most likely that this system will be used after all. It also means that the same format (9 Groups) for EURO cups and World Cups will continue to be used.

  20. The current African system shows the danger of only using 6-match groups. Nigeria, Cameroon, SA all on the outside while traditionally incompetent Niger qualifies with a 0-3 loss at Egypt in the final match.

  21. I'd go with:

    Preliminary Stage (8 - ranked 45-52)
    8 lowest teams play 4 ties, winners (4) go through

    Group Stage (44 - ranked 51-1; + 4 = 48)
    48 teams in 12 groups of 4; winners + 11 seconds (23) qualify to Euro + host = 24 teams

  22. If they kept the 9 groups, with top 2 from each group qualifying directly, along with the best third place team, with the 8 other third-place teams in home-away playoffs, there could be an interesting addition to the situation: EURO LEVEL2.

    EURO LEVEL2 would be a 16-team knockout only tournament of teams which didn't qualify for the Euros -- it would only require 15 matches (or 16 if there was a 3rd/4th match).

    With 20 teams qualifying directly for the Euros, and 8 teams in the Euro playoffs, that leaves 24 teams no longer in contention who could play home-and-away qualifying matches at the same time the Euro playoffs were taking place (November). (I would seed these based on finishing position in the group stage, so that a fourth place finish would be seeded higher than a fifth plac finish.)

    The 12 winners would qualify for EURO LEVEL2 along with the 4 losers of the Euro playoffs, for a total of 16 teams.

    The whole EURO LEVEL2 tournament could be wrapped up in about two weeks. It could precede or follow the actual Euros (might be fun coming before).


    1. Good idea
      in the euro level 2 would qualify 4 play off losers, then 9 4th ranked teams from each group and top 3 5th ranked teams from each group. That would bring more competitive matches in qualification. The only problem is who would be a host nation, because till the end of qualification we would not know which country will be in level 2, also there is no enough time to prepare for final tournament. So suggestion is to last sixteen should play home and away matches till semi-final. Semi final should be played in country who able to qualified in semi.
      Also, this level 2 tournament should be played as a warming-up for a main tournament.

  23. here's a really radical idea which might take sometime to explain. so here goes. WHY NOT LEAVE IT EXACTLY AS IT IS NOW.

  24. @Ashot

    Three weeks ago you liked the SPI ranking just fine :) See your comments.

    That should be "all members", not "52 members". Will update the post.

  25. my favourite:

    13 groups with 4 teams:
    1st and 2 best 2nd placed teams qualify (15)
    -> 6 matches per team

    11 2nd and all 13 3rd placed teams
    8 groups with 3 teams:
    1st placed teams qualify (8)
    -> 4 matches per team

    So France + 15 + 8 = 24

    France + 15 qualified teams from 1.phase play a tournament with only single matches:
    Round of 16, Quarterfinal, Halffinal, Final
    -> 1 to 4 matches per team

    So all teams have 6-10 matches except France 1-4.

  26. Awful suggestion by Platini.

    Armenia is just as good is not better than Scotland & Romania at th emoment though.
    And there is not much difference between Montenegro & Serbia either.


  27. I also think it shouldn't be changed - 16 is a winner! Failing that, simply have 13 groups of 4 (one group will have five, I think). The winners and 7 best runners-up qualify, making 20 teams. The remaining 6 runners-up contest three head-to-head 2-legged playoffs (no seeding!) and you've got 23 + France.

    For the finals, forget the wc 86-94 format where teams can qualify on a 6-1 loss and two fluky draws in 3rd (Uruguay in 86). Make a moderation to Spain 82 by having 12 second round teams in 3 groups of 4 (instead of 4 groups of 3). Borrow something from the cricket wc of a few years ago and you've got a system which favours winning matches and only 3 games decided on pens. I'll use USA 94 to demonstrate:

    Group A: Romania & Switzerland would qualify
    Group B: Brazil & Sweden
    Group C: Germany & Spain
    Group D: Nigeria & Bulgaria
    Group E: Mexico & Ireland
    Group F: Netherlands & Saudi Arabia

    The first "super group" would be made up of the qualifiers from Groups A & B, the second by those from C & D and third by E and F. The key is that each team's first round result against their group's fellow-qualifier would stand in round 2. In other words, Switzerland would start the new group with the 3 points they won from their victory over Romania while Brazil and Sweden would carry their first round draw over.

    So, the second round would start like this:
    Group 1: Switz 3pts, Brazil 1pt, Sweden 1pt, Romania 0pts

    The remaining matches would be:
    Romania v Sweden & Brazil v Switz
    Romania v Brazil & Switz v Sweden

    Group 2 and 3 would work the same way.

    The group winner with the best record would play the best 2nd placed team in one semi and the two other winners would make up the 2nd semi.

    I may have made it sound complex, but it really isn't. I think knock-out games can be cagey and, especially with so many weaker teams and too much gets decided by penalties.

    This format means a shorter qualifying campaign, pleasing clubs everywhere, while ticking the box to allow middle-ranking teams to get through. In the finals, it prevents teams playing for draws and sneaking through in 3rd. It provides huge incentives for teams to win groups as well as reducing penalty shoot-outs. There would still only be 51 (or 52 if they stupidly decide on a third place game!) matches, as is currently proposed. It's much more of a "championship"!

    I'd be grateful to hear some opinions!

  28. Thinking outside the box - nice! A comparable alternative would be to distribute the 24 teams over 4 groups of 6, with group winners going straight to QF, with a playoff between runners-up and 3rd placed. Only problem is that then you have 5 group matches and up to 3-4 knock-out matches till the final, which the associations will not approve of. Other drawbacks are that the total number of matches with this format (71) is also rather high and 4 weeks are just about enough to get the tournament done, with final group match days having 3 matches simultaneously.

  29. I'd go for this:
    6x4 => group winners go "serie A". 6 second place + 2 best runners up go to elimination. 8=>4=>2 (or 4 best runners up play 1 H2H). Those 2 join the 6 group winners and play the quarterfinals.

  30. What about this one for the finals:

    4 groups of 6 teams. However, each group of 6 is split into two seeded groups sub-groups, with the best 3 (by world ranking) in the 'seeded' group and the bottom 3 in the 'unseeded' group. Then in the group stage, each team only plays against teams from the other group i.e. the seeded teams only play the unseeded teams, and vice-versa. This means all 6 teams will have played 3 games.

    We then advance the top 4 in each of the four groups into the quarter finals. This has exactly the same number of games as the WC 86-94 format but does not have an issue with teams knowing in advance what is required based on groups that have played before them.

    1. I don't like this. You'd have a lot of chance you'd end up with groups like these after 2 matchdays:
      1. Spain 2 6 (2 games, 6 points)
      2. England 2 6
      3. Switzerland 2 3
      4. Slovakia 2 3
      5. Romania 2 0
      6. Scotland 2 0

      If this would be the case, you'd have a very good chance there would be a lot of games which would be useless for one team, but very important for the other. Or useless for both.

    2. Ironic - in that table you just published every team will still have something to play for! Scotland and Romania can still qualify, and Spain are not quite through!

    3. Apologies - Spain are indeed through. Although they could still finish 4th (and face big team in quarters). However teams qualifying after 2 games even in 4 team groups is nothing new.

  31. If the games are

    there would be only 1 competitive game. Or a table like this:
    1. Spain 2 6 (2 games, 6 points)
    2. England 2 6
    3. Switzerland 2 4
    4. Slovakia 2 1
    5. Romania 2 0
    6. Scotland 2 0

    and games like

    The game would be intersting for Romania and Scotland, but rather useless for Spain and England.