September 6th, 2011
07:02 PM ET

Should UEFA put weaker nations out of their misery?

Wesley Sneijder found the net twice as Netherlands romped to an 11-0 triumph over San Marino.
Wesley Sneijder found the net twice as Netherlands romped to an 11-0 triumph over San Marino.

As I watched San Marino get demolished by the Netherlands in a Euro 2012 qualifier on Friday, I thought that it’s time for UEFA to restructure the qualifying format for European Championships and World Cups.

11-0. That was the score in Eindhoven between the top and the bottom ranked teams on the FIFA standings. The question has to be asked, why did they have to play each other in the first place?

Did you know that the eight lowest ranked teams in the UEFA region have combined for a grand total of two wins in 49 Euro2012 qualifying matches?

Together they have combined for a goal difference of minus 114. Again, what’s the point?

I know what UEFA’s stance is and I know what a lot of you are thinking - the only way to develop football in these small nations is to give their teams a chance of competing with the best sides on the continent.

I honestly don’t agree. What is the point for the likes of San Marino, Andorra, Malta, Luxembourg and others constantly losing by seven, five, three or even one goal?

Wouldn’t it be more productive if they actually had some games that mattered? Some games that they could win?

What I would suggest is for UEFA to set up a pre-qualifying phase for the lowest ranked teams on the continent.

For argument’s sake, let’s say that the bottom 16 would participate in eight play-off legs.

The winners would move into the main qualifying draw, the losers would have to play each other in matches that would count for ranking points or schedule friendly games in order to improve.

My opinion is that by eliminating the weakest teams, UEFA would improve the overall standard of games in qualifying.

Furthermore, they would also cut down on the amount of matches the top teams and players have to endure. Fair? I think so.

Of course UEFA don’t have to think outside the box to make this happen.

European football’s governing body could just follow the example of other confederations.

Asia, Africa, Oceania and CONCACAF all have a pre-qualifying phase for the weaker teams, which have to negotiate a series of knock-out matches in order to have the privilege of facing the top sides on the continent.

So, I challenge UEFA to take a long hard look at the qualifying format for big tournaments.

I ask Michel Platini to make a decision, one which ultimately would be better for football.

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Filed under:  Football
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Roger Hogerbrug

    you are soooooooow right Pinto, I'm from Holland and these matches are not good for a team like San Marino and also not for Holland, you can only lose and can't was 11-0 but missed allot of chances...sow not had to be 15-0...if it was 15-0 then it has to be 20-0

    September 6, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Reply
  2. ary verhoeff

    Hi pedro i agree with you...but not only the UEFA also the FIFA should use that idea, it brings us better football and less games, think it's also welcome to the players and their clubs..,,

    September 6, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Reply
  3. PK1990

    I am proud to be Dutch and thoroughly enjoyed that match. 11-0 is the least we scored, it could have very easily been 18-0.

    September 6, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Reply
  4. Killian Donnellan

    Pedro Pinto I rarely agree what with your opinion but I think you are right on this topic. How can teams be expected to compete if they keep on letting five goals a game and then have no chance of qualifying. You have the right idea about having pre- qualifying with 16 of the lowest ranked teams in Europe, but how about as well have the eight that lose in the pre qualfying have a mini tournament between themselves as keeps the teams competative and maybe the winner can become one of the top seeded teams for the next pre qualifying phase for just say the world cup. But we have to remember many players take pride in playing for their country, but then again how you have pride after being beaten 11-0. Players also play too many games internationally and at club level and I hope you confront Platini about this in a interview for CNN.

    September 6, 2011 at 11:36 pm | Reply
  5. Filip

    Good point! I think also it's about time for considering that issue and for finding the solution, because I think no one could say that there's a progress in game of those teams. To make a progress you should build a system for them and to gave them possibility for achieving reasonable goals, instead of putting them on fire with stronger teams. If they entering every match with aim- it's a good result if we don't lose with 5 goals in our net then every possible chance for their game and football progress stops before it ever starts.

    September 7, 2011 at 12:07 am | Reply
  6. kabir

    I completely agree with this article it makes a lot of sense

    September 7, 2011 at 2:17 am | Reply
  7. lemieux

    The worse teams benefit for sure; gives them experience. For the better teams it's a waste of time and they risk injury. They should do it like in ice hockey. The bottom two teams from each group should be pooled into a lower division where they would need to qualify to get into a higher division. Case closed.

    September 7, 2011 at 11:39 am | Reply
  8. Kangetsu

    San Mariono were destroyed by Germany in a Euro 2008 qualifying match 13-0. it was back then that uefa shoud have thought of something. its just sad to watch. they dont deserve one beating after another without any hope

    September 7, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Reply
  9. Steve C

    You cannot throw a Euro nation out just because they lack quality. Thats crazy talk. Yes so they get beat badly but thats not the point. As long as they meet the requirements they are entitled to remain in the competition.

    Every sport has terrible teams or sports men/women do they get excluded for being weaker for not being as good as the others?

    That would be like telling that chap at the world championship the other weak who was much slower than the others that even though he was the only representitiave of his country that he was not allowed run.

    You cannot segregate or exclude nations because they are simply poor at playing the sport.

    September 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Reply
  10. DQuinn

    Another problem with these teams is that they don't have the stadiums to cope with visiting fans.

    Ireland are due to play Andorra in a game Ireland have to win to stay on track for a play-off place. With 5,000 Irish fans expected to travel, both teams wanted to play the game in a large stadium in nearby Barcelona. UEFA broke their own precedent and refused, insisting the game be played in Andorra's tiny 850-seat stadium. With flights already bought thousands of Irish fans face an away trip where they have no chance of getting tickets.

    We are better off without these joke teams.

    September 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Reply
  11. Terry

    I've been advocating a two-tier Euopean Championship, World Cup and Champions League for many years. There is simply no point in a lot of these matches in which the big guys just beat up on the little guys. Why not create secondary competitions in which the middle and lower ranking teams at least have a chance of winning something? The eventual champions of these secondary tournaments could also be given the incentive/reward of automatic entry to the next main event. That way at least we'd be seeing the best of the worst, so to speak, and the no hopers, like San Marino, would be spared the ritual humiliation. It could also, as Pedro says, reduce the number of fixtures top teams have to play. Platini's goal of spreading the wealth by creating all inclusive competitions is all very laudable in principle, but what it does is dilute the quality of the main event. If we want to see 11-0 scorelines we can go to watch a kids game in a public park. Woefully lop-sided thrashings do not belong in top class football and should be the exception not the norm.

    September 7, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Reply
  12. Shad

    Pedro, I agree completely. Watching teams get pounded 8, 10, 12 to 0 is boring and doesn't help either team. It is definitely time for a change to be made.

    September 8, 2011 at 5:37 am | Reply
  13. JD

    but, but, (Pedro) said 2 of the lower teams actually can any of the lower teams even have a chance to win if they don't play the game?!

    this EXACT problem has existed, or still exists, in ice hockey (mens and womens) and other sports....

    if they want to play the game....let 'em play!

    September 8, 2011 at 8:28 am | Reply
  14. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Sports and games are all about participation, respect and honor for players and fans. There should not be any room created for excessive shame and humility for the on field actors and their supporters and admirers. A new league for the smaller nations would be the ideal way out. Senhor Pedro has made a valid point.

    September 8, 2011 at 10:14 am | Reply
  15. laruke

    i am from uganda i think perdos idea is great and that is how most african countries developed their football. i pray platini borrows the idea.

    September 8, 2011 at 11:46 am | Reply
  16. Premier League Rules

    You are soooooooooooo wrong! Any nation could improve as any nation could buckle under with aging players too. Football is constantly changing with new blood rising and managers. Your viewpoint has taken the fun and joy out of the sport, it's not like these athletes are running for political office. Stop taking the game so seriously.

    September 8, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Reply
  17. genovacentro

    Even Finland or norway or wales rarely qualified for the finals of a Euro football competition, my point is when you start removing some country then it's hard to stop, i remenber italy's hard time with Malta and Cyprus, even against far oer last week, so let them play, it's an occasion for stronger teams to try new and young players.
    San Marino even had some world champions in his sport history, bigger countries are still waiting.

    September 8, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Reply
  18. Wojtek, Warsaw

    Well, maybe pre-qualifications should be introduced, but it's not an explanation for humiliation of minnows from San Marino made by Holland. Two digit score was not necessary, as I know. So they should stopped their efforts while 9:0 to avoid humiliation of amateur rivals. Two goals more – 11:0 instead 9:0 gave Holland nothing. Van Persie wanted to repair his image after humiliating 2:8 in Manchester? I don't think it was successful after agressively "boxing" amateurs instead of Rooney & Co. And two years ago when Poland trashed San Marino 10:0, it was also not necessary. For me our players should stopped scoring while 8 or 9:0. It also gave nothing to Polish team – decisive was very poor performance in four matches against Northern Ireland and Slovakia. One-two goals more against amateurs improved nothing. But some Polish fans were exited about it – and now I am surprised that Dutch fans of so good team – are too. These 10:0 and 11:0 against San Marino – not necessary roughnesss.

    September 8, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Reply
  19. Villa till i die

    I don't know if I agree or disagree, but I do know that it is all about money. As most things are. These matchups draw big crowds for the lesser nations. Who in malta, luxemburg, ect.. wouldn't relish the chance to see italy, germany or the dutch play in their backyard?

    September 8, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Reply
  20. Branko

    I strongly disagree. These micronations have amateur teams, and are capable from time to time to achieve a surprising win against the stronger opponents. It was not long ago when Lichtenstein made some quite remarkable results (finishing with 8 points while drawing against Portugal and Slovakia) in their qualifying group. Andorra too made some fine results in the WC 2006 qualification. Faroe Islands are not the team to underestimate (they have constantly been able to make their much more prominent opponents work very hard for the points). Malta is no exception either. In these qualifications Luxembourg took the point against Belarus (who defeated France in Paris) and defeated Albania. San Marino is the only exception and yet to make a sounding result in official games. Anyway I think games which include national foootball teams are the only games we do not have plenty of, making most of us eager to watch them. With CL, Europa League, Domestic Leagues etc. daily on our TV, this is about the only competition I'm eager to watch every time it is available, and can't get enough of...even if it's San Marino VS the Netherlands...

    September 9, 2011 at 9:15 am | Reply
  21. Orlando

    That exact same system is used for CONCACAF world cup qualifiers and it doesn´t work, bad teams will be bad teams and a few of those will be less bad. At least San Marino gets the chance to up themselves against a team like Holland, learn and improve. In CONCACAF teams are stuck playing the same old Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti, Suriname, Barbados and St. Kittis & Nevis, whereas having Germany or Netherlands visit your country is a HUGE event in the country (and fires the passion for football), playing vs bad teams will make people disregard the whole thing and sit out until some years from now they qualify and play an actual team.

    September 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Reply
  22. Steve H

    I really disagree with this stance.
    Where do you draw the line with weak teams? What if these teams improve.
    Sport is all about giving everyone a chance.
    My wee Northern Ireland aren't a big nation and regularly suffer defeats but in the last 5 years we have also beaten England and Spain.
    Who are you to take this opportunity away from us?

    September 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Reply
  23. Amanuel Babu

    PEDRO, 1,000,000 % I DISAGREE WITH YOU! DO you Know exactly the defination of NATION (COUNTRY)? ?

    September 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Reply
  24. Toninho

    This is a really bad idea.

    When i think of your idea i think of what World Cup History would have missed out on when the USA beat England in 1950, Italy being ousted by N. Korea in '66 and Cameroon beating Argentina in 1990.

    I say if Holland is better than San Marino, let them play the game on the field: not in the history books.

    September 9, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Reply
  25. M Fahy

    Luxembourg, Faroe Islands and Leichtenstein have all had a win and a draw each in this qualifying campaign.

    "Seven" and "five" goal defeats are largely a thing of the past. Only Andorra (who only lost 1-0 to a late Macedonia goal on Wednesday) and San Marino have failed to score points. In fact San Marino are the last man standing who are likely to concede a hatful of goals. It does not happen anymore.

    Would you also like to see Wales (bottom of table and no wins) and Cyprus (bottom of table but who had a very good World Cup qualifying campaign 2 years ago) also kicked out of UEFA.

    These so called football minnows have players who play with passion and integrity, unlike the pumped up arrogant money obsessed football millionaires from the superpowers.

    Each nation has its own culture, pride and footballing tradition, and is perfectly entitled to play.

    September 11, 2011 at 6:49 am | Reply
  26. Sao Xavier Natha

    I think there is no problem with that..let the current system stay in place,it has to be known that even the so called small nations still have the chance to improve..take an example Greece was just an ordinary team and before 2004 we could talk little about them,in that year 2004 they made their name winning the European cup something a football nation like England has never done to this present day.
    Dar es salaam -Tanzania

    September 16, 2011 at 10:15 am | Reply


    September 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Reply
  28. oneworld2

    There is no point in making 2 cups, because no one is going to watch the second cup.
    Its all about money and tv ratings, and lets face it no one is going to watch a san marino – malta game.

    September 18, 2011 at 11:57 am | Reply
  29. lionel

    don't forget, if Africans have pre-qualifications rounds is because their continental championships is every two years ... and is the reason why they fail in world cup ! The best way to prevent theses micro-nations from growing is preventing them from playing top European teams.

    September 19, 2011 at 6:45 am | Reply
  30. Ashley

    Actually I would scrap the European Championship totally and just have 1 major tournament every 4 years being the World Cup, However I would make a EuropEAN cHAMPIONSHIP LEAGUE. what I would do is created 5 divisions of 10 teams in each league, so 1-10 ranked would go in Division 1 and 11-20 div 2 etc, that way all teams are playing at their own level and you can work your way up the leagues. I would have a promotion and relegation system so 2 up 2 down and play 18 games over 3 years and top 8 or whatever in div 1 qualify for the world cup, the remaining 4 teams have their own little mini league playing to qualify to gain entry to the main leagues.

    October 23, 2014 at 5:07 pm | Reply

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