It’s time the small fry were dumped out of the qualifying groups – it’s just a waste of time and effort and an insult to the cream of European football.
Not very “all for one, and one for all”, but, seriously, what is the point?
I can’t be the only one looking at England’s potential fixtures against Liechtenstein in the run-up to Qatar in a couple of years with an inevitable sense of gloom.
A quick glance down the results this week and a brief scan of the tables shows the same countries propping up the rest – welcome to European Championship “Groundhog Day”.
For instance, it will surprise no one that San Marino have conceded 43 goals during their eight outings.
That’s an average of five goals per game – and doubtless some of their opponents took their foot off the gas.
England smashed seven past a woefully weak Montenegro (Tammy Abraham in action, right). Portugal grabbed six against Lithuania – and face the might of Luxembourg on Sunday as Cristiano Ronaldo goes in search of yet another match ball.
It’s the same story repeated time after time – and yes, I know France “only” beat Moldova 2-1 in midweek – but our friends from across the Channel were already through, so it was no biggie. Ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Liechtenstein were bottom of their qualification group. As were San Marino, Gibraltar, the Faroe Islands… all getting thumped this time around.
This isn’t a xenophobic rant, by the way – happy to embrace anyone as an equal – until it comes to watching yet another 90 minutes wondering when England will finally make the breakthrough against, say, Malta who have absolutely no intention of doing anything other than stuffing 10 outfield players within 30 yards from their own goal.
UEFA need to streamline it so that bigger countries such as Spain, Germany, Italy, France and Holland don’t waste their time. Because there is absolutely nothing to stop countries further down the rankings playing a Round Robin to decide who gets to play the big boys.
That way, spectators aren’t being fleeced and they can turn up knowing they are watching a proper game when the groups start.
If a team such as Kosovo progress through the rankings, they won’t need to pre-qualify in future. Good luck to them.
But when can you see that happening?
It was brought home to yours truly at the opening squad announcement ahead of Euro 2016 when Roy Hodgson practically guaranteed England would reach France.
And yet still the big-hitters to have to go through the motions against the likes of San Marino, Andorra and Gibraltar.
So, why don’t we face facts and dump some of the also-rans – it will be doing the majority of us a massive