A championships of charm...and calculators
The first ever European Championships (1960, 1964 and 1968) were limited to just semifinals and a final. The second competition of which, if remember rightly, was in Spain and we won it. After ’68 the format expanded along with the interests of UEFA and the host country, and, almost without noticing we’ve gone from a four team tournament to a 24 team one, as it is in France this year. A record…for the moment. Six groups of four nations that allow passage to the four best third place finishers – as well as the top two – to the second round.
Discrepancies in Euro 2016
There are certain discrepancies to this new format. For example, Albania had to wait three days, without playing, to see if they would progress or be eliminated. Another example: Portugal have only two days rest between the group stages and their last 16 match, while France have six and Spain five. And what of these two distinct sides of the draw that we’ve been left with? The ‘Route of Death’, in which Spain have fallen into thanks to Perisic’s goal, and the ‘Silk Route’, in which Croatia will traverse without having to overcome the great obstacles of Italy, Germany, France and England. It seems as if something hasn’t quite worked.
Special priveleges given to France
Part of the problem is that football can be wicked, but the other part not so much. We’ve got this ‘Route of Death’ because England and Spain failed and find themselves where they’re supposed to have been. Meanwhile, these discrepancies in the number of days have happened because a certain team lost here while another won there, but also because the organisers have given special privilege to the winners of Group A, in which hosts France were drawn automatically. As a result, France are guaranteed decent time off, compared to Portugal, who’ve hardly any. Football has its charm and magic, but it also has people who know how to look after number one. After all, he who cuts the cake gets the biggest slice.