Ask any soccer fan about their favorite World Cup memory and you’ll immediately see a smile on their face and hear the enthusiasm in his or her voice. My favorite memory was my first World Cup when I saw Archie Gemmill go on that incredible run to score against Holland in 1978 in Argentina.
Over the years, the World Cup has become more about the experience and less about the football. There are many reasons for this, but a major one is the over-commercialization of the sport. UEFA’s European Football Championship is not immune to selling out soccer either, but the competition is far superior to the World Cup in many ways. Here’s my top five list of the reasons why the Euros are better than Copa Mundial:
- No third place final. I’ve watched almost every World Cup match from 1978 to 2006, but in all of those years I think I’ve only watched the third place final once. The match is a waste of time for the players, the fans and the TV audience. Thank heavens UEFA skips this meaningless match.
- Fewer teams competing. Sometimes less is more especially when you consider that Euro 2008 features 16 teams, while the 2010 World Cup in South Africa will feature 32. With 16 teams, you have the best teams who deserve to have qualified for the tournament. With 32, you usually end up with several minnows that get thrashed in the opening round and that don’t deserve to be there.
- Better quality football overall. It used to be that you looked forward to the World Cup to see the contrasting styles of play and how the different countries displayed their football characteristics against other nations. But the game has become one giant melting pot and what comes out of the other end is a similar style of football played worldwide. As a result, the World Cup matches have become less interesting while the games involving European countries are more enjoyable to watch (Italy versus Spain, and France versus Romania aside).
- Less burnout for players and fans. Every four years soccer fans get so excited at the prospect of the World Cup but due to the sheer number of games, TV watchers get burned out. There are only so many games on consecutive days that you can watch. And the same applies to players. After a long season, it’s difficult for footballers to maintain the highest levels at a World Cup. At least the Euros are much shorter and less physically stressful.
- Less hype. The amount of media coverage of each World Cup is mindboggling. The hype builds up so much that it’s often impossible for the actual football games to live up to the expectations of the media and fans. In contrast, the European Football Championship generate lots of media exposure but nowhere near the levels that Copa Mundial produces.
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