The Euro 2012 was the last tournament to be played out with 16 teams. In four years time, when the gravy train stops in France there will be 24 teams competing for European football glory. However, Michel Platini seems to go even a step further in 2020.
The Euro is growing
The obvious point is that teams that looked good in qualification might struggle with the task of playing three group matches in the space of ten days. The quality of the games and thus the tournament will suffer. Those countries who failed to qualify via the play-offs such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Norway, Belgium might add some quality to the tournament as a whole but that’s only 3 teams out of 8 who will take part in France 2016. There will be Austria, Switzerland, Ukraine among others who will fight for a place to start in the tournament. The quality during qualification might also suffer as teams will know that second place is good enough to make the finals.
Extending the tournament to 24 teams further means, more grounds have to be used by the host country. France has the infrastructure but it will invariably mean that the tournament will only be co-hosted in the future unless powerhouses such as Spain, Italy, Germany or England apply to host the tournament. This extension however, does make sense when considering to spread the tournament across the continent. This is what Wolfgang Niersbach issued in a statement to Germany’s boulevard paper Bild.
According to the plans of former Juventus Turin star Michel Platini the 24 teams will play out the preliminary games in their capital cities, putting the smaller countries at a disadvantage as the 12 best placed countries in FIFA rankings are automatically granted home games. From the quarterfinal onwards the games will be held in neutral countries. This is only an idea of Platini and nothing has been confirmed. He will present this idea in December at the executive committee’s meeting and a decision will be made in January 2013. It is not even sure if this format will continue beyond 2020 as this year will mark the 60th anniversary of the competition if this report is to believed. This might be a nice idea to mark the anniversary but it appears that the idea is somewhat flawed and needs thorough re-thinking to find the support of all member associations of UEFA. Until 1980 the tournament the quarterfinals were played out over two legs, which means, if UEFA are going forward with this, the EURO could for once become a monstrous event, possibly too big to enjoy. Where this is going, remains to be seen. In December we’ll know more about it.