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Euro 2016: Is the qualification campaign pointless?

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Yesterday's draw in Nice for the Euro 2016 competition in France failed to provide much excitement.

Due to the expansion of the tournament, the draw came up with some mediocre match ups. I mean, is it possible to get excited about Cyprus facing Andorra? Can the qualification campaign provide some upsets, or will it give the bigger nations a string of useless international games?

Looking at the draw, it is expected that all the seeded teams from yesterday's dramatic performance from France will all make it to the final competition in 2016. The only nation who may struggle to top their group would be Bosnia-Herzegovina, who have the dangerous Belgians in their group.

The majority of managers of the Pot One nations played down how easy their groups looked, giving respect to their opponents but secretly must have been smiling inside. Whilst some ties may prove exciting, for example Italy v Croatia, the lack of mouthwatering ties could turn fans away.

The new system that UEFA are implementing this year sees the games spread out over a six day period rather than the usual Saturday and Tuesday games. Whether this will be successful or not will have to wait, but it could cause some upsets to the national leagues. Managers probably won't be too happy about having a key player play only a couple of days before an important league fixture.

The possible inclusion of France into the mix makes the whole process ridiculous. Being included in a group, to play completely pointless internationals, just to prevent them dropping down the rankings makes a mockery of the whole process.

It seems daft that the nations go through the process, when the big nations are certain to get to the next round, and teams like San Marino and Gibraltar will be lucky to get a goal. The chance for nations to pull a surprise and qualify through the playoffs is still there, but when they reach the finals, they will probably be humiliated

A positive from the draw is it gives the stronger nations a chance to try out players and see how they perform. The likelihood of a full strength England squad facing minnows San Marino is almost as likely as San Marino qualifying. It gives managers the opportunity to see if younger or fringe players are ready for the big time, with little to lose.

The increase in nations qualifying is a good thing for the home nations and the Republic of Ireland. With the top two nations automatically qualifying and the third placed team facing a playoff, it looks positive for the other competing teams.

Barring some insane act of God and England don't finish in the top three, they are almost guaranteed to appear in France. Switzerland will be the most difficult opponents to face, but shouldn't cause Roy Hodgson's men too many troubles. Slovenia were less than impressive when the two teams met at the World Cup in South Africa four years ago. Expect a dogged defensive display, determined to keep the floodgates closed.

18 points out of 18 may seem like a difficult order, but against Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino, nothing less should be expected. The chance for rotation and debuts is there but if points aren't won in those games, the fans and the media will be straight onto the teams back, pilling on the pressure.

Wales may need to rely on the playoffs to qualify but with the quality of Gareth Bale in their side, it may not be beyond them. They faced the Belgians in the World Cup qualifiers, and managed a credible draw away from home. A repeat of that performance would really boost moral. Bosnia-Hercegovina may be enjoying qualifying for their first major tournament but can they continue their success or will it be an one time success.

Israel almost reached the playoffs for the World Cup and are confident they can go one step further this time. They will be Wales' biggest challengers to reach the next round.

The success of Northern Ireland could depend on the other teams in their group. Whilst Greece have qualified for the World Cup, they are hardly the dominating side that managed to stun the football world in 2006. Hungary, Romania and Finland aren't threatening nations, and despite almost reaching the World Cup playoffs, it is unexpected they could do so again, opening the door to Northern Ireland. This could be the tightest group, with every point vital.

Scotland and the Republic of Ireland meet in the group stages, joined by Germany and Gilbraltar. Whilst Germany seem certain to take first place, Poland, Ireland and Scotland will all battle it out for the last two spots. Scotland, ranked 34th will be desperate to take the opportunity to reach their first major tournament since 1998. Ireland will also be looking to qualify to make amends for the infamous Henry handball that denied them a place in South Africa. The chance to met France and gain revenge could be enough incentive to motivate them.

Poland could cause some upsets with the impressive Robert Lewandowski upfront, and the Premier League goalkeepers Artur Boruc and Wojciech Szczensny staying resolute in defence.

The Euro 2016 competition in France could be a fantastic tournament as it's where all the best teams in Europe meet. The qualification phase normally cuts the teams that aren't good enough to qualify. The fear is that by increasing the number of teams qualifying, it won't do that and becomes a pointless procedure.

Some of the smaller nations, however, will be desperate to grasp this chance to prove to the continent they can mix with the big boys.


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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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