The World Cup has started off oddly with the noisy vuvuzelas, the floating balls and some not so full stadiums. Despite that, the South African hospitality and organization have been flawless and the fans seem to be enjoying it both in and outside the stadiums.
However, the first 11 games have overall been caracterized by extremely cautious tactics and the objective of not loosing before thinking of eventually winning. This trend – which is not new – lies with the 2 tier organization of the World Cup with a first round which is in fact a small championship to filter out the top 2 teams from the 8 groups which then play the real cup phase with direct elimination in the eighth, quarter and semi-finals.
One important reason for having a mini championship to start with is to increase the number of games played – 48 – so as to cumulate maximum television audiences and the revenues that these generate. However, the first phase of the World Cup has too many drawbacks in my opinion:
- The favourite teams can afford to manage their first and even second game and still qualify in the third one (Italy even qualified with 3 ties in the first round of the 1982 World Cup!).
- This leads to dry and boring games where the smaller football nations are proud even tying against higher rated opponents.
- It becomes very difficult for the so-called smaller teams to qualify for the eighth finals because they need to play 3 top quality games to have a chance of going through.
- In some cases, when a team wins its first 2 matches, the third one can become an opportunity to have a majority of substitutes play.
I would change these 2 tier rounds so that the World Cup deserves its cup quality as of game 1 by adopting the same elimination system as in pro tennis tournaments. A ranking system would classify the 32 qualifying teams depending on past and current results (more on this in a future post). The nation ranked 1st would play the 32nd, the 2nd would play the 31st and so on. Direct elimination would therefore happen from game 1. There are several advantages with this method:
- Every single game is eliminatory thereby providing for maximum intensity and drama.
- By halving the total number of games from 64 to 32 the FIFA would be preserving the physical integrity of the players and increasing the quality of the matches.
- Less is more!
- Smaller nations would stand unique chances of causing memorable upsets keeping alive the true nature of cup games.
- Better and more intensive games will bring higher tv audiences and the revenue flows that come along with these.
FIFA, bring the passion, drama and intensity that the World Cup deserves from day 1! Fans will thank you for that.
Maracanazos don’t want to mix championships with cups.