Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Fernando Torres for Spain (v Germany), 29 June 2008


So I maybe once or twice stated quite categorically that Spain didn't have the mental strength or team ethic to win the European Championships.

Hmmm. It sppears they were much better than I expected. Well done to them - I don't begrudge them a win as there has rarely been a country whose international trophy haul belies the talent they have been able to draw on (except for Holland and to a lesser extent England, I suppose). Clearly they have some good players, and the introduction of (Brazilian) Marcos Senna seems to have been the glue that held the side together this time.

Was it a good tournament? I'm not sure it was any better or worse than previous Championships to be honest. There were some nice moments - the Turks "never say die" attitude was a delight, as was the Dutch's early promise but ultimately it petered out when the knockout stages began.

One thing I am in entire agreement with Martin Samuel about, though, is the format for the tournament. Sometime in 2002 (to accommodate teams based either in South Korea or in Japan) the format was tweaked so teams in the same half of the draw were able to meet each other twice before the Final.

For example, Turkey had to play Brazil in the group stages in 2002 and also in the semi-final. This time around Russia faced the Spanish twice in both group stage and semi-final.

There should be no way that a time has to face another more than once unless the trophy itself is at stake. Clearly it is possible two teams might face each other twice in any given tournament but this should never be allowed to happen until the final itself. Changing the format again to ensure this is the case shouldn't take much, and considering the tournament is about to be expanded to 24 teams anyway (a ridiculous idea which will dilute further the quality of the competition - when UEFA has 53 members it means that almost half will end up at the Finals) it should be near the top opf the agenda when the tournament schedule is designed.

In the meantime, congratulations to Spain - worthy winners.


ian said...

To a lesser extent, England?

Spain: Population: 40M; Major international trophies: 2

Holland: Population: 16M ; Major international trophies: 1.

England: Population: 50M; Major international trophies: Just the one, then.

I think that puts England up there with Russia as the greatest underachievers in European football.

While I agree with your argument for non-split tournaments, I don't think the evidence you use to support it stands up.
For example, South Korea or Japan never played in the Euros, and the 2006 world cup had a split draw, organised by FIFA.

So did Portugal (as you know, the final was a repeat of the first game). The argument for a split tournament made sense in Korea/Japan, as the draw was split geographically, and the distances greater, but that wasn't the case in Swastria - if Austria had come second in their group, they'd have played in Basel, nor was it the case in Benelux.

LB said...

no, I am just saying that the 2002 World Cup and 2004/2008 Euros operated this daft split draw system. I am basically saying that two teams should never meet twice in the same tournament unless the second time is the final. I don't care about the geography involved - it should simply not be allowed to happen.

(as Samuel does, you could also extrapolate this to the qualifying/Finals draw as well. Spain had Sweden in the qualifiers so had effectively beaten them on the way to the Cup without having to do it again in the tournament itself. Surely they could be kept apart in the draw also?)

ian said...

I am agreeing with you! But Euro 2004 definitely didn't have a split draw

LB said...

ah, I get you. You're quite right, Portugal in 2004 did the draw "properly". I wonder why they changed it for 2008, then?

swisslet said...

at last!! I've been tipping spain at every major international tournament since 1990 (I tipped argentina for 1986). They finally came good!