Latest updates

Check the Important info page for latest updates! (20 June 2024)

Friday, June 7, 2013

EURO 2016: UEFA looking to change qualifying format

In 2012, Gianni Infantino said UEFA will review the qualifying format to make sure it's not boring.

Martin Samuel recently interviewed Michel Platini. You can find the full transcript on the Daily Mail. A lot of issues were discussed and even the qualifying format for EURO 2016 was brought up. Here's the excerpt. Looks very similar to the proposal presented by Mr. Platini in 2011.

I think Mr. Platini made a small mistake - the UEFA meeting in Dubrovnik will take place in September this year, not in 2014.

Because Mr. Platini's English is a bit rusty (he said so himself), here's the plan he has in mind.

Two group phases:

1. First phase - 12 groups of 4 teams (yes, I know, that's 48 teams and UEFA now have 54 members including Gibraltar). Only winners qualify.
2. Second phase - in the remaining six match-days (Mr. Platini mentions 12 in total), the remaining teams somehow contest the remaining spots, while the 12 teams qualified previously will be involved in a great pre-EURO friendly tournament in USA/Brazil/Argentina/London/France. Based on the 2011 plan, all UEFA members will get a (equal?) share of the TV rights for this friendly tournament.

Platini: I think it was a good idea. The only problem of the 24 are the qualifications. It will be less interesting.
Samuel: That was my point.
Platini: So we have to change the system of qualification process.
Samuel: How would you do that?
Platini: We have made some proposals to the national associations last time at the congress of Cyprus. And they didn’t want to change because they didn’t anticipate the problem. But we anticipate the problem so we have to discuss with all the national associations. But I think in the next year in Dubrovnik, we have to think about the qualification. They have to be better, instead of a group of seven with three qualifying – we have to think something, we have to think of something better for the success of European football.
Samuel: Like what?
Platini: We have many ideas.
Samuel: Give us one. Your best one.
Platini: The best one for me can be not the best one for you. And perhaps not the best for the associations, and tomorrow they kill me in the newspaper.
Samuel: But what do you think is the best one?
Platini: No, no, first we have to propose. We can propose many things. If you think a little you will see that you can have more than one proposal.
Samuel: I think about stuff like this all the time, Michel.
Platini: You can have two ways of qualification. You can have a qualification, perhaps with the group, when you take only the first. The first. You can play six games – we have 12 matchdays. So it means that we can make a tournament for the first, and perhaps we can make the same tournament to qualify those other 12 teams. That could be an idea. We can make tournament for the first – I don’t know perhaps in the United States, perhaps in Argentina, perhaps in Brazil – to develop the football in this country. Perhaps in London, perhaps in France, a tournament for the best team – that could be an idea. It could be a different sort of qualification. It means you have qualification for one, then the other 12 seats you have qualification for the lower team in Europe and official games to be another chance to be qualifying.
Farrelly: There’s Europe and then there is a World Cup qualification that has to be considered afterwards. There’s two things that need to be answered.
Platini: You know I have many, many, many ideas.
Samuel: Yes.

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. Wait, European qualifiers could end up "shipped" to South America???

    1. Yes, it's the same plan leaked in Gazzetta dello Sport in 2011. Added the link in the post.

    2. This would put England at a disadvantage. They'd wilt in the heat. So would anyone else from a cool/cold country.

  2. Urgh, I hate this. I wish we'd do away with hosts and cities. I want to see England play teams like Spain Italy and Germany in England! Imagine Euro/WC KO games played over 2 legs. The passion in the stadiums. 2 legs to decide better who the best team is. The home fans get to go to the qualifiers, but then only the rich can watch the big games. I actually like qualifying more than tournaments in this respect.

    A two tier qualifying system could be a good thing, but keep it in the host countries. You could then have England vs Spain/Italy/Germany etc. in England or Spain/Italy/Germany etc. in groups as teams fight for seedings at the tournament. If they are friendlies, then a bunch of undeserving teams will get seeded at Euro 2016 and the World ranking of top teams will be crippled for World Cup qualifying. And by that token UEFA is likely to perform poorer at the World Cup and drop places to other confederations.

    I'd rather just keep it as is. Or reduce the number of groups. 8 groups would do, top 3 qualify. A worst 3rd would miss out with a host.

    Or maybe just do away with 24 teams and go back to 16 so we won't have these problems...

  3. The idea is stupid.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. How about this

    5 groups of 5
    7 groups of 4
    Winners and runners up of group of 5 qualify
    winners of group of 4 qualify
    Thirds of group of 5 and seconds of groups of 4 playoff
    Hosts France qualify as well
    7+5=12 12/2=6

    Draw rules
    Pots divided into
    1st pot, top 17 seeds
    2nd pot, next 12 seeds
    3rd pot, next 12 seeds
    4th pot, next 12 seeds
    Two from the first pot drawn in group of 5
    One from the first pot drawn in group of 4.

  6. Or...

    11 groups (9 with 5 teams, 2 with 4 teams). Winners and host France get top 2 seed spots in the 6-group finals.

    Second-place finishers and best third place team also qualify

    In future Euros, when two hosts, wouldn't use the best third-place team. Also in future, this system could support to extra associations.

  7. Under my proposals seeds are front loaded rather back loaded, the excess seeds don't make up the numbers at the bottom of a group but rather ensure competitive first rate ties at the top. Any of the top 17 could be drawn against another in that seed group, that's the fun. It could be Spain vs. Germany or it might be team16 vs. team 17, but at the very least, good sides are not sure of early qualification. It does however provide a better chance to have smaller teams an opportunity to break through while almost protecting an advantage at the top. The bottom two in each group going out is something that I think will make things competitive too.

  8. Will some of the groups in phase one have 5 teams or is this an indication of creating a pre-qualification for the weakest teams in UEFA?

    1. Since Mr. Platini mentions 6 matchdays, I guess this means pre-qualification.

  9. The big question mark here is what happens in the second round of qualifying. I guess what you could do is something like:

    1st round: 12 groups of 4/5 teams (depending on if pre-qualifying is used) with the winners qualifying.

    2nd round: all of the 2nd and 3rd placed teams (24 in total) go into a playoff round. To solve the seeding issue you just put all the 2nd placed teams in one pot and all the third placed teams in another pot. Problem being that France qualifies automatically so you'd have to do some horrific "two worst third place teams don't go through" system that would completely mess up the seedings.

  10. Front loading does offer a more interesting option, e.g.
    Norway, Greece, Estonia, San Marino
    Spain, Turkey,Scotland , Moldova
    Montenegro, Serbia, Israel, Liechtenstein
    Croatia, Rep. Ireland, Armenia, Kazahstan
    Portugal, Wales, Lithuania, Faroe Islands
    Czech Republic, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Luxembourg
    Germany, Hungary, Finland, Cyprus
    Denmark, Belguim, Slovenia, Austria, Malta
    Sweden,Netherlands, Iceland, Poland, Azerbaijan
    Italy, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Romania, Georgia, Gibraltar
    Switzerland, Ukraine, Slovakia, Northern Ireland, Andorra
    Russia, England, Albania, Belarus, Latvia

    1. If the top 2 from the groups of 5 qualify, the top team from the group of 4 as well, but the third place team from the groups of 5 and the second place teams from the groups of 4 enter the playoffs. To make matters a little more exciting any two sides from the top 17 could end up in a group of 5, both should qualify in the top 2 berths but they may end up in a playoff with a bad result or two.

      Any thoughts?

    2. too many groups make too many boring groups. a group Portugal/Wales/lithuania/Faroe Islands is véry boring.

      A max of appr. 8/9 groups (the top 17 split in 2 groups) is the maximum for me.

    3. The original idea was to have shorter groups though, I think if they still wanted to introduce a Platini esque tournament, they could simply use the playoff teams.

  11. I don't want little groups. Little groups would be more boring.

    But it shouldn't be about boring, it should be about making sure the best 23 teams qualify.

    Of course, all this is because they changed the format when they should have just left it alone.

    7 or 8 groups. At least that produces a variety of opponents and delays the top team's mathematical qualification. 3rd place qualifying means you have no business complaining if you don't qualify because some team got an easier run in at the end. If you can't make the top 3, you won't add much to the tournament.

    Failing that, just leave it the way it is, 9 groups, top 2 qualify and playoffs.

  12. it shouldn't be about making sure the best 23 teams qualify. otherwise, you shouldn't let Spain, Italy, France, Germany, ... play qualifications for at least 20 years.

    1. I mean the teams that perform the best. And the teams that are the best have to keep proving they're the best. This shouldn't be a problem for them though with 23 qualifiers.

  13. This format is crap : it breaks the universality and equality of national team football, it creates a de facto first and second division in european football.

    We need to keep the classic format of groups of 5/6/7.
    Maybe the 7-teams groups, like for the Euro 2008, to densify and propose good adversity to big teams.
    To prevent big teams to qualify too early, you can imagine a format where only the first and best second qualify directly, the worst second, third and some fourth going into play-off.

    With a " progressive rewarding " systeme like this, each match will matter, for all the teams :
    - big name will want to secure first places
    - minnows will want to reach third or fourth places to make a miracle

    And dont tell us that competitive matches against minnows are less attractive than the " marketing friendly tournament " they want to implement ...
    European football is too rich with many competitive teams, the issue is not the opponents, but the stakes and incentive in the matches.

    1. I loved the 7 team groups even though they did for my England. I'd love to see them return for both European and World Cup qualifying.

      But it should be top 3 qualify and playoffs among the 4th placed sides.

    2. Mathematically that doesn't work out, to have 3 qualifiers from each group you will need 4-5 eight team groups and they are absolutely loathed by UEFA to ensure all sides enter without double teiring. Six groups of seven and two of six with one playoff, possibly between the 3rd place of the groups of 6 makes more sence.

    3. Sorry, you have 5 groups of 7 and 3 of 6, unless you introduce the hosts... Not that ad an idea considering the free fall Brazil have made in the rankings, and perhaps that having France in the qualifiers but not qualifying may allow a hand wave to ignore a need for playoffs unless France finish outside the top 3. Perhaps having the top 2 qualify regardless in this group bar France might remove a playoff, or indeed a 2nd 3rd playoff within the group should France finish outside the top 3, or perhaps something else. South Africa played in World Cup qualifiers as hosts because they also counted towards the African Nations Cup, so it's not unsurprising.

      Don't be too surprised if Platini rejects the idea. But for when there are multiple hosts top 3 from 8 groups of 7 or 8 seems logical.

    4. There were a couple of 8 team groups in Euro 2008 qualifying. There would be 7 groups. Some would have 8 teams, some 7.

    5. Yes but there was no 8 groups plus playoff option.

    6. How about we have 9 groups of 6 (one of them would be 5). First and second of every group qualify. That means 19 teams qualifies inculding France. We compare the results of the 3rd place of every group. The 3rd place with the best result automatically qualifies. Thats 20 qualified teams. The rest of the 3rd place teams would be in a play-offs. There are 8 of them, and only 4 would win. That's 24 teams. This qualification process is great

    7. I also do not like the EURO-24-format, but if the task is to come up with an interesting qualification format 23/53 + 1 host, then the key to excitement is to make it a real difference whether you end up 1st, 2nd or 3rd.
      So it would be an option to keep the usual 9 groups of 5/6 with all group winners and 5 best runners-up to qualify directly. The remaining 9 spots are decided by usual 2-leg playoffs: 4 worst runners-up and 5 best 3rd placed get seeded and play second leg at home. Their unseeded opponents are 4 worst 3rd placed and 5 best 4th placed. As usual, matches against 6th placed do not count in the comparative ranking of best/worst.
      That placing 4th still keeps you in contention for qualification through playoff may appear ridiculous at first sight, however it is preferable to potential match-fixing (which can still occur, but is much less likely) between No.1+2 if both qualify right away. Besides, it can counter an imbalanced draw.

  14. The race between four in the italy/france/scotland/ukraine group was epic ...
    2 finalists and 1 quarterfinalist of the last WC ...
    Only the last matchday was without stakes.

    If Scotland and Ukraine had qualified for a play-off, it wouldnt had been a shame

  15. Before Gibraltar came into the mix you could make groups of four. My favourite was to have two stages in one order or the other. One stage would seed teams as currently and draw them out. 6 games there.

    Another stage would take the rankings from the top and sort them into groups of 4 again. Another 6 games. So the top 4 ranked teams play in a mini group and all the way down to the bottom four teams playing in a mini group. Points from both stages would count. So minnows could rack up points against other minnows and actually make some attempt at a lucky qualification.

    The worse teams still wouldn't stand a chance but it would make qualification possible for nearly anybody.

    1. Ooooh, no, no, no.

      It's bad enough as it is giving teams who deserve nothing a chance, but it's also far too open to abuse, teams rigging matches for an easier second round group.

    2. The rankings before any stage was played would be used for both rounds of games so the 2nd round of matches would already be planned. It's more about making the top teams work for their qualification than allowing the San Marino's of the world have a realistic chance.

    3. Why make them work? The final tournament will be watered down enough as it is with 24 teams without risking some of the better teams failing to make it.

  16. If Plantini did start with 12 groups (of 4 or 5), he would need 10 match days (because a group of 5 needs 10 match days). Say the group winner qualifies, leaving 41 teams (including Gibraltar) for a second round of 11 groups (of 4 or 3), which would need 6 match days. Winner of the 11 group join the 12 first round winners and France.

    While the second round is occurring, the 12 first round winners could be put into 3 groups of 4 for either (A) home-and-away which would also need 6 match days, or (B) a tourney in say France with 3 group-stage matches per team with 3 knockout rounds comprising the top 2 from each group and the dreaded two best third-place finishers -- just like the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Quite frankly, this mini-tourney of the top 12 would probably be more interesting that the FULL 24-team Euros.

    The only problem with this would be not having France (host) as part of that mini-tourney. If they wanted that, then have 11 groups in the first round, and 12 groups in the second.

    What do you think about a 12-team mini-tourney while the other 40+ teams qualify for the remaining spots?

  17. How about the following format: 15 groups, 8 with four teams (A-H) and 7 (I-O) with three teams (remember France qualify directly but Gibraltar added so 53 teams in qualifying tournament). 15 groups winners qualify and play Platini's friendly tournament together with France. Six match-days are needed.

    Remaining 38 teams are merged into 8 groups in the following way: A+I,B+J,C+K,D+L,E+M,F+N,G+second team in group O, H+third team in group O, so that are six groups with five teams and two groups with four. Results from previous round are carried forward so only six match-days are needed. Winners of each group to qualify.

    Platini's friendly tournament: 16 teams, free draw. Home/away knock-out with Last 16, QF, SF, 6 match-days needed to produce finalists. Final to be played at date and venue of final draw (European Super Cup style), winner guaranteed to be top seed at group stage (and automatic qulification to the next world cup as extra spice?).

    In total, 12 matchdays+final at date of draw needed. What do people think?

    1. Utter bollocks.

    2. Why so negative? A lot more exciting than 9 groups where top 2+best 3rd qualify and rest of third placed teams play-off for remaining four spots.

      May I say that I am no fan of expanding from 16 to 24 teams, but that decision has already been made and is unlikely to change for 2016. So given that we need a qualifying system that uses a maximum of 12 match-days to qualify 23 teams from 53, I think that my proposal is as good as any. It is fair for everyone and gives more interesting games between top teams in the friendly tournament.

    3. The expansion is a hideous idea and will spoil what has recently been the best international tournament. The only 16-team Euro which wasn't really memorable was 2004.
      As for qualifying, have a preliminary round to whittle out the cannon-fodder i.e. the lowest 16 teams play-off over 2 legs with the winners qualifying for the main qualifying draw. The 8 losers can then play a mini-tournament where at least they will enjoy some competitive football. The main qualifying draw would see 9 groups of 5 with the top 2 and best 3rd qualifying. The remaining 8 would play-off (UNSEEDED) for the final 4 spots. The advantage of the 5-team group system is that generally they would be competitive and most teams should have something to play for most of the duration of qualifying. Oh, and it reduces the number of games for the bigger nations, easing the usual club v country dilemma.

    4. Agree completely on expansion, 16-team format was ideal.

      I understand you are no fan of Platini's friendly tournament, which I actually think could be worth a try.

      Regarding qualifying, I am no fan of 5-team groups and pre-qualifying. In that case, why not have 8 groups of six and only 10 teams in pre-qualifying? It would mean 1-3 of each group qualifying except for two worst third-placed teams who would play-off for final place.

      In any case, I think such a system will be very boring as the top sides could field reserves and still qualify. I think my proposal with 15 groups has a lot more going for it, with a 16-team friendly tournament during second half of qualifiers.

    5. Yes there's no ideal qualifying format with such a bloated number of finalists. It will certainly take the edge out of the qualifying games. They were already a cruise for Spain, Germany, Netherlands and Italy and now they will be even easier.
      How about this for a radical idea: have 16 European teams qualify as usual, plus the 4 semi-finalists each from 2015 AFCON & Asian Cups to make 8 guests? This would be a novel counter to the 2016 Copa America Centenario As a European living in the Americas, I am already looking forward to this more than I am to the 24-team Euro 2016.

    6. If Platini is worried about the qualifiers being boring, then he's got bigger problems than the format. The football should sell itself. I say leave it as it is.

      Putting the better countries at risk just means making a watered down tournament even more watered down.

      It's stupid, 24 teams. They should be expanding the youth Euros, not the senior one.

      It's so depressing. Euro 2012 was the last true European Championship. It's really going to hit home once the World Cup is over, and then we've got two soulless bought and paid for World Cups to look forward to. Hopefully this crashes and burns, and then reverts back to 16 teams in the future.

    7. EDIT: The simple fact of the matter is the qualifying is boring because qualifying is no longer anything to be proud of. Congratulations. You're better than just over half of the continent. If you're a big team, you can't win, only lose. It's absolutely expected that you'll qualify. Utter humiliation if you don't. If you're small, is it really anything to cheer about scraping through qualifying when you know that it's only the stupid system that let you in and your team is just going to be making up the numbers? Even if you make 2nd, you don't know if you'd have survived a playoff under the old format.

      With 16, you're better than over 2/3, nearly 5/7 of the continent, and that is an elite group. You top the group, that's something to be proud of. You come 2nd and fight your way through a playoff, that's something to be proud of.

      With 24, you might win a group, but only because another team took their foot off the gas because they guaranteed qualification. If you finish 2nd, you won't know if you would have been good enough to qualify under the old format. 3rd? You know for sure you wouldn't have made it. The only way I think you could really feel good is by clearly dominating your group.

    8. I want the qualifiers to stay the way they are rather than this idea, but here's an idea to consider. You have 11 groups. top 2 and top 3rd place go through. 12 groups when they do this garbage with the cities in 2020.

      You fix the groups so the top two seeds play each other home and away on the first two matchdays and the 2nd and 3rd seeds play each other home and away on the last two matchdays.

      This means the best teams play each other twice in meaningful games. And if the seedings are accurate, the 2nd and 3rd seeds will be fighting each other over the 2nd place spot at the end.

      I got some inspiration for this from CONCACAF, where they fixed the 2nd round World Cup qualifying groups so the top two seeds don't play each other until the last two matchdays.

      Most of the groups would contain 5 teams, just 2 would have 4. You'd have 6 5 team groups and 6 4 team groups in 2020.

      So an example would be something like this, I'll take a 5 team group:


      Matchdays 1+2:

      England vs Sweden
      Sweden vs England

      Matchdays 9+10:

      Slovenia vs Sweden
      Sweden vs Slovenia

      Always give the 3rd seed the first home game to increase the competitiveness. It's optional for the 1st seed vs 2nd. Might be better to give the 1st seed the first home game. If the 1st seed wins away first, they'd be expected to win at home right after. If they win at home first, they might not win away.

      A 4 team group would actually be measurable in how it would go, I'll make one:

      England/Norway/Iceland/Nothern Ireland

      A very Northern group! I just chose England and the middle seeds by the latest World rankings. I'm sure everyone in that group would like it.


      England vs Norway
      Iceland vs Northern Ireland

      Norway vs England
      Northern Ireland vs Iceland

      England vs Iceland
      Northern Ireland vs Norway

      Norway vs Northern Ireland
      Iceland vs England

      Iceland vs Norway
      England vs Northern Ireland

      Norway vs Iceland
      Northern Ireland vs England

    9. There's no intrinsic reason why the stronger countries would be more at risk in my system with 15 groups than with the current system with nine groups. The second round gives those stronger nations who slipped up in the first round, e.g. due to a tough draw. Of course, I think we would all be happy with just France and the 15 teams who qualified in the first round making up the 16 tournaments!

  18. How about this for a radical idea: have 16 European teams qualify as usual, plus the 4 semi-finalists each from 2015 AFCON & Asian Cups to make 8 guests? This would be a novel counter to the 2016 Copa America Centenario As a European living in the Americas, I am already looking forward to this more than I am to the 24-team Euro 2016
    Bulgaria a side which has dropped well out of Europe's top 25 beat AFC champions Japan 3-0, with all due respect there are enough good sides that are in the top 40 European nations to avoid having to fill up places with Japan, Nigeria, Australia, Ivory Coast etc. Heavens forbid a side like Scotland, Wales or Albania might qualify!

    1. I actually think the Centenario tournament is a really bad idea. Now that Copa America has established itself on a useful spot in the 4-hear cycle with everyone bringing their best players, CONMEBOL/CONCACAF are doing their to undermine the "usual" Copa America. I would be extremely surprised if the likes of Argentina and Brazil will bring their strongest sides to both tournements. Not least because World Cup qualifying is likely to start in October 2015.

    2. Me too. Centenario should not happen.

    3. They have expanded EURO to give a chance to qualify to middle of the table teams such as Ukraine, Hungary, or Ireland, and you want to give these spots to teams such as Oman, UAE, or Jordan ??????????

  19. The reason why CONMEBOL invites other teams is because 16 is a better number than 10 and they don't want to drop below 10 CONMEBOL teams. Adding Mexico & USA also adds large commercial interest.

    Europe don't have that problem. If they wanted to, they could return to 16 teams anytime.

    Top 4 from AFCON & Asian Cups wouldn't add anything, neither sportive or financial. And even so important: reducing the 24 to 16 would mean you'd have to disappoint 8 European teams. Conmebol hasn't got that problem.

  20. Let's ignore the invincibility of the so called big guns, Germany struggled against Austria... Not in the top 24 in Europe ...Spain drew with Finland ... Not in that top 24... France losing to Belarus, Portugal drawing with Northern Ireland, Scotland beating Croatia... Making the tournament longer increases the risk of an upset. Bulgaria's defeat of Germany in WC94 shows this.

  21. Hi! My idea:
    1st round. 53 teams: 12x4 + 1x5 -> 13 winners are qualified.
    2nd round. Remaining 40 teams: 10x4 -> 10 winners are qualified.

    1. 1st Round would be awkward as the 5-team group would need 10 matchdays as opposed to 6 for the other groups.
      How about FIFA giving Greenland & Kosovo full member status which would give a rounder 55 teams? Then you could simply have 11 groups of 5 with the Top 2 qualifying and the best 2 3rd-place teams play-off for the final spot. This would ensure that teams in 3rd would retain an interest and have to chase points right up until the final matchday.
      I wouldn't mind betting that by about Euro 2028, there will be almost 60 nations taking part, what with the various likely newly independent countries and those like Greenland & Kosovo with existing claims.

  22. I have a much better idea: fire Platini.

  23. How about 9 groups - 8 groups of 6 and 1 group of 5. The top two of each group along with the best 3rd placed team from the groups of 6(19 teams) will automatically qualify. The remaining 7 third placed teams from the groups of 6 and the 3rd placed team from the group of 5 go into playoffs, with the 4 winners joining the other 19. Having one group of 5 can't be helped but at least the 3rd placed teams in the groups of 6 will have a one in eight chance at automatic qualification.

  24. The best format I can think of is to allow the quarter finalists at the last Euros a place in the next finals. they then play each other home and away over the next 4 years in friendlies for a trophy, thus if this had been running the following teams would have qualified from the last Euros Czech Republic, Greece, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Italy, England and France.
    The remaining 45 nations are then divided into 8 groups of 5 or 6 with first and second qualifying for the finals.
    You keep rolling this on and as soon as you make the last 8 your into the elite league and the next Euros.

  25. Got bored this evening watching the football and started to think about how qualifying could be made more interesting especially at this stage when so many teams have nothing to play for except pride. So why not move to a new two tier system with promotion/relegation between the two for the next qualifying campaign.

    Based on the current group standings for I would relegate the bottom 2 from each group into a UEFA division 2 and using the FIFA rankings for seedings I drew out the following 3 groups of 6 (yes I know Gibraltar need to be added)
    Group 1
    Estonia, Latvia, Macedonia, Liechtenstien, Luxembourg, Andorra
    Group 2
    Georgia, Moldova, Azerbijan, Wales, Malta, San Marino
    Group 3
    Armenia, Cyprus, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Kazachstan, Belarus

    These 3 groups would play at the same time as main qualifying giving each team more realistically competitive matches and being totally honest giving these nations something to actually play for!
    The top 2 in each group are promoted and the 2 best 3rd place teams meet in a play off to decide the final promoted nation.
    Having seen the scenes in Luxembourg tonight when they won their first home qualifier in 43 years can you imagine the scenes if they finished in the top 2 of their group something that for a a nation like Luxembourg is realistic in this format.

    In Division 1 you would have 7 groups of 5. Qualification numbers obvioulsy depends on wether its a world cup or europe nations cup, but would be easy to finalise. the bottom team from each group is relegated for the next qualifying campaign. This means that with groups of 5 and the top 2/3 qualifying and the bottom team relegated that right up until the final match all matches would be purposeful and competitive.

    Based of FIFA rankings for seedings the 7 groups could look like this:

    Group 1
    Holland, Norway, Israel, Czech Rep, Finland
    Group 2
    Spain, Denmark, Slovenia, Ukraine, Poland
    Group 3
    Portugal, Sweden, Slovakia, Belguim, Lithuania
    Group 4
    England, Greece, Ireland, Bulgaria, Albania
    Group 5
    Germany, Russia, Switzerland, Bosnia, N.Ireland
    Group 6
    Italy, France, Turkey, Hungary, Austria
    Group 7
    Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Romania, Scotland

    with 5 team groups like these I feel there could be some amazing battles for qualification and to avoid Relegation. Another benefit is that during the qualification period there would be 2 less match days but why not at some point have a 10 day national team training camp followed by a friendly match? Less intensive than 2 matches in 5 days and gives managers a more relaxed atmosphere within which to work with their players and develop a team.

    let me know what you think. I may even send this to mr Platini ha ha.

  26. Hmmm - unless I am misunderstanding your system ... every single team must start qualifying with a chance (however small) of qualifying for the World Cup. It sounds like with your system someone like San Marino could develop a few Gareth Bales yet still have to wait 6 years to qualify for a World Cup?

    Just introduce pre-qualifying to make it more competitive. Make the cruddy teams like San Marino, Moldova, Malta and Scotland play out a tournament before qualifying starts. Send one team through from the group of naffsters. No more places decided on how many goals you beat San Marino by.

  27. Qualifiers, why bother at all. Let's be childish about it:

    Create a triple tiered Euro2043 (seems like a realistic date): Best 16 NTs = premier tier, next 16 = tier 2, ... and with the last 16 slotted in tier 3 you'll have 6 "spare" teams.

    Before the very first edition you'll need to organise 1 big tournament to determine the ranks (seems messy but I think there's something similar out there already). Probably some kind of cooky ranking system could work too. Doesn't really matter because you'll only need it once.

    Then you're ready for the final stage:
    16 premier tier NTs do battle in 4 groups of 4. Best 2 of every group advance to KO stage/quarterfinals, ... same set up for tier 2 & 3 ... the 6 "spare" teams play in a small trny/group. Fireworks and the trnys are over.

    Finally a play-off relegation "trny" replaces the current qualifiers (or we'd miss them). From September onwards, those that ended in 3th place of a premier tier group play their home & away games vs those that lost the quarterfinals in tier 2 (and those that were at the bottom of the premier tier groups face off against those that advanced beyond the quarterfinals in tier 2). Same set up for tier 2-3 relegation matches except that the best 2 of the "spare" teams are added to the 8 that didn't get past the group stage in 2 groups of 5 (which would be the only 2 qualifiers that remain).

    You can organise this triple trny twice after a WC, i.e. 2043 and 2044, and then teams have to qualify again for WC2046 (unless WCs get a similar global set-up; either FIFA uses the extra revenue to pay for travel expenses and venues or the worlds minnows keep playing in their own region).

    OK this post is a bit puerile but I do hope that UEFA & FIFA help the minnows develop by giving them a chance to play in a decent trny, that qualifiers become more balanced and allow for the best teams to shine, that ranking procedures show, without a shadow of a doubt, the comparative strengths of all teams worldwide, etc.

  28. I suggest that there are 5 groups of 9 teams and 1 group of 8 teams, on a round robin basis that everyone plays each other ONCE (Disadvantage - Those is 9 team groups will have an odd number of home/away ties).If the proper tournament is co-hosted, then there will be 2 groups with 8 teams. 7 advance from the 9 team groups and 5 advance from the 8 team groups. Leaving 40 teams.

    Then the 40 teams are split into two pots, Pot A with the 20 highest ranked teams, and Pot B with the lowest 20 teams, and they commence in a two legged home and away tie against their specified opponent from the draw. The 20 winners qualify for the competition.

    From the 20 second round losers, the 3 with the best records since the beginning of qualifying (first round + second round) qualify for the tournament.

    23 teams qualify, with the host being the 24th.