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Are The European Playoff Seeds Fair?


Supporters of various national teams across the globe are already  packing their bags, updating their passports & booking flights to South Africa for next Summer’s World Cup Finals. With their beloved nation’s automatic qualification secure, they’ve only the stress-free decision of which player’s replica kit their going to wear during their teams opening match left to decide. Ahh’ the bliss of yet another major tournament qualification under your belt & the return of club football (thank God), what could be better?

But not every supporter of International football will share the same feelings as those of the supporters of England, U.S.A., Brazil, Italy, Germany & hey, even Argentina (to name a few). What becomes of the frowning countries set to compete in Europe’s 2nd place playoffs? – more specifically, FIFA’s recent controversial decision to seed all 8 of the remaining countries. Of course what this means for “smaller” nations is the likeliness they’ll face a historically “bigger” nation in their quest for glory in South Africa.

Recently, Ireland International & Manchester City shot-stopper-extraordinaire Shay Given lambasted FIFA for their convenient, late decision to” nudge” some of the struggling giants into the Finals.

“I think it’s pretty disgusting to be honest. Before a ball is kicked, these things should be made clear”.

The smaller nations should maybe put up more of a fight because it is not fair”.

Does Given have a point?

As it stands, the remaining 8 countries are as follows:

Portugal, Greece, Slovenia, Russia, Bosnia, Ukraine, France & Ireland.

In my estimation, the top seeds will probably be awarded to France, Portugal, Russia & Greece (Greece could get a seed in my opinion due to their success in Euro 2004), with maybe Ukraine sneaking in at the behest of either Russia or Greece.

Now that we know who’s involved, is this process remotely fair? Does Given have a point in his remarks? As an England supporter, I had to endure their abysmal failure during Euro 2008 qualification & the subsequent tournament without my beloved 3 Lions. Why? Because they weren’t good enough. All teams involved have the same amount of opportunities to gain points throughout the qualification process without favoritism coming into play. Euro 2008 ended up being an incredible display of attacking football & each match I watched was a footballing joy. England are now a better team for all their past failures. The point in this is that if you’re not good enough, you’re not good enough. Plain & simple.

Now I realize what you’re thinking, & yes you’re right. These teams were good enough (for 2nd place) & deserve their shot. I agree, but why not let all 2nd place teams be equal? Why separate them & show favor to bigger footballing nations? Given is right in my opinion. A World Cup without Cristiano Ronaldo is a travesty, I get that. But a World Cup without an Ireland or Bosnia because other teams were shown favoritism is equally wrong. How epic would a 2-leg playoff affair between France & Portugal be for neutral football fans? Imagine that! All the marbles are on the line with 2 very successful footballing nations giving everything they’ve got to reach the Finals. It’s unfortunate, but we’ll probably never get to experience it.

What are your thoughts? Take a second to leave an answer below & we’ll see what the brilliant readers of EPL Talk think about it. Enjoy your football.

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  1. Aigbokhae vincent esosa

    October 20, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    I am really dissapointed with the way FIFA has reacted, this so called lower teams gave it all out during the qualification stage, they fight stood and worked hard and they kept thier focus, its a shame you are seeding teams like france who couldnt quilify ahead of Serbia which would have been seed as a low team if they have not made it ahead of france. for me Ireland should keep thier focus and come all out to win the game, I see no reason why france cant be beaten. i wish all the lower team best of luck. you can call me +2348054773752

  2. Steve Vai

    October 20, 2009 at 5:12 am

    I think Republic of Ireland in the end were very unlucky with the draw, to face France, its an impossible task. Can you picture a world cup without France? I dont think so. Portugal perhaps, but not France.

    Looking forward to the Slovenia Russia matches. Also Id like to say Given has guts to speak out the way he did. Hopefuly in the future people and FIFA will listen.

  3. ken wilson

    October 19, 2009 at 6:56 am

    it’s all about the money honey!

  4. Peter

    October 19, 2009 at 2:23 am

    2006, sorry!

  5. Peter

    October 19, 2009 at 2:22 am

    Yes, corrupt. Yes, unfair. Yes, not in the spirit of the competition. Yes, organisationally incompetent. I’m still fuming over FIFA ruining the 2004 finals with their ridiculous instructions to referees.

  6. Steve Vai

    October 17, 2009 at 4:02 am

    The change in the last minute shows how much organisational skill FIFA have. If it was run by kids, we’d see more improvement. I think Bosnia deserve to go to the World Cup as the results have shown, two wins over Belgium in 4 days can not be easy for any team. Turkey who played in the Euro 2008 semi finals have failed to overtake Bosnia for second spot.

    If Russia is drawn to play Bosnia then in all honesty we can see the full extent of this unfair system. Russia having also played in the semi finals of Euro 2008 would be the third difficult opponent for Bosnia to take on (having previously faced current European chaps Spain). Where is the justice in that?

    Can New Zealand say they faced 3 such opponents in one qualification round? Or any other team really?

    Totally unfair and devastated for the good of the game.

    • Peter

      October 17, 2009 at 6:23 am

      HERE, HERE!!

    • Lyle

      October 17, 2009 at 1:44 pm

      Oceania is a joke, most of Asia too… but it’s the World Cup and not the European Championship.

  7. Ryan

    October 16, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Shay Given was right. It’s disgusting. Clearly FIFA was trying to protect TV audiences and Sponsorships, and the thought of losing a France or Germany terrified them. This would be like changing the seeding structure for NFL right before the last game of regular season. It would never happen! It’s outrageous. Clearly I’m partial because I really think Ireland was screwed, but I HOPE they draw France and knock them out!!!

  8. Lyle

    October 16, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    I want the bigger teams in actually. So I have no problem seeding the teams based on their FIFA ranking or however it is they’re doing it.

    Conversely, if France and Portugal squared off, we could also end up getting Ireland vs. Bosnia (yippy! yippy!).

  9. Jim

    October 16, 2009 at 8:40 am

    The seeding is unfair due to the fact it was only decided upon when Blatter saw that the biggies may not make it. It should be like the FA cup and be an open draw. It’s fine for people to say it’s fair but that’s probably because their team has already qualified. What will you say if you get knocked out in the first round by France or Porugal then you will probably cry foul.
    It could be that the 2nd seed teams will not only have to play a top seeded team but they may have to play against a less than impartial referee, like in the champions league semi final, Chelsea versus Barca. (btw I hate Chelsea, but they were cheated)
    I would love to see the 4 top seeds lose that would would really stick it to Blatter (unlikely I know).

  10. jleau

    October 16, 2009 at 12:11 am

    Seeding is inherently more fair than not seeding. It’s lame that they are changing at the last minute but the final decision is the right one. Why on earth should Ireland have more of a right to the WC than Russia or France. All of the second place teams have roughly the same points 18-21 (incidentally Ireland has the least). Is the argument that because France’s 21 points are disappointing and Ireland’s 18 are a good effort that they are somehow more worthy of a spot?

    Honestly no European country has a platform to bitch about WC fairness. You guys get 13 spots, the same as the Western Hemisphere and Asia combined. How is that fair? 3 times as many people get equal representation.

    Russia is currently 6, France 10, Greece 12, and Portugal 17 in FIFA rankings, while Ukraine is 25, Ireland 38, and Bosnia is 46. Why should UEFA ignore that?

  11. The Gaffer

    October 15, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    I’m in favor of the seeding, but I’m not in favor of it being done at the last minute like it was done. It makes the system look corrupt.

    The Gaffer

    • Peter

      October 16, 2009 at 10:42 am

      That’s because most big organizations, especially FIFA are corrupt. The system is clearly to favour the more financially benefitting for FIFA. As if they need anymore money.

      Also can somebody understand why FIFA make so much money from worldwide TV revenue and sponsership deals but give barely any of it to charities. Also why are they promoting healthy food and healthy living but the tournament will be sponsered by McDonalds, Mars, Coke and countless other fast-food chains.

    • Lyle

      October 16, 2009 at 2:30 pm

      I agree with this is as well. You have to stick to the rules from whenever the competition begins. I want it to be seeded though.

  12. sam

    October 15, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    this isbull sh1t and a half, as an american i am happy that we made it but my irish heritage is fuming, this is garbage, the team that tied italy twice!!! in qualifacation isnt seeded but a week greece or portugal team is, i have a better idea, take al the minor countries– malta, cypruss, san morina and so on compete in a mini tourny as soon as the world cup ends, top 4 advance to normal qualifying, which will be changed into a multi group single table like in mexico, and the top however teams qualify, who ever is next in line plays in the qualifier vs 5th place conmebol, we give concacaf 4 auto bid and no play in

    • AtlantaPompey

      October 16, 2009 at 12:16 pm

      Tied Italy twice! Should have beaten them both times too. Ireland is the one that feels hard done by this decision. They are the lower seeded team that none of the higher seeded teams want to face. I’m pulling for them!

  13. Jeff

    October 15, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    I guess I’m alone on this. While it may be wrong that they changed the rules half way through I think they made the right decision in the end. I think they should re-seed after the first round. While it would be great to see France vs. Portugal for a chance to be in the World Cup wouldn’t it be an even better matchup were they to meet in the actual World Cup? In my opinion it would be.

    As a fan of the game I want to see the best teams and the best players playing in the big tournaments. That means Russia and Arshavin, Portugal and Ronaldo, and France and Henry even though I can’t stand either France or Henry in the World Cup.

    I may have a different opinion if I was a fan of Bosnia or Slovenia but as a neutral that is what I want to see.

    So in summary I’m glad they are re-seeding because that means there is a better chance great players like Ronaldo and Arshavin will be playing in the World Cup.

  14. hank

    October 15, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    I agree, the timing of this decision stinks, and changing the rules mid-tournament is unfair. But, before getting too worked up about it, its worth considering:

    The reason that the seating is deemed “unfair” is there’s an implied judgment that the “big” teams are, in fact, better teams (who haven’t been playing up to par). If that is the case, is seating the playoffs really a bad idea in general? Keeping in mind that the purpose of the qualification process is to find the best 32 teams for the world cup finals.

    And, if you happen to disagree, and don’t think the “big” teams are really better, why would the seating matter at all?

  15. Thomas

    October 15, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Agree. Were this in the rules before hand, then it would be seen as unfair, but at least it would be put out there. Now you have FIFA pulling a blatant move to insure that historically great nations have a chance to get into the World Cup. Well if they had been playing better to begin with, they wouldn’t be in this position.

    This also ties into the argument that World Cup qualifiers should be shortened, and “crap” nations should be forced to play each other before facing off against the big dogs. Bullshit. It should be the same road for any team. The only way I could see FIFA rewarding certain teams before hand is by using previous tournaments, Gold Cup, Copa America, Euro’s, Confed Cup, etc. a chance to enter the qualifying later in the fray.

  16. Derek

    October 15, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    The absolute biggest problem is the timing of the decision. Changing mid-tournament is unforgiveable. If the system was in place before the qualifiers started, I would sneer at the concept, but would not be appalled.

  17. uh?

    October 15, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    i hope ukraine draws greece. greece is incredibly overrated. ukraine is much more exciting and have actually made a wc recently.

  18. billmapguy

    October 15, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    As a Ukrainian-American, I am bumming over this. Maybe Ukraine will draw Greece, but otherwise I don’t like my homeland’s chances.

  19. Peter

    October 15, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    It’s absolutely disgusting. All it is, is a way to completely guarantee that the (supposedly) big teams and players will be there. For instance would you rather promote a shirt with Ronaldo on it or one with Dzeko on it? All they one is the TV revenue, shirt sales, kit sales and the countless adverts of Pepsi, Coke, Sony and McDonalds with big name players on it. If anyone asks why FIFA need the money. Simple they don’t, but they want as much as they can. If you ask me by giving the world cup to South Africa (which i believe is a great idea) Blatter and co feel they have done enough to give FIFA a good repuatation. Not so, not only does this stink of money grabbing but it also stinks how they completely devalue countries such as Bosnia & Herzegovina over countries such as France. I for one hope France and Portugal don’t make it, as they have been utterly dreadful in qualifying, god only knows how they are even in the play offs. Whereas Ireland have been absolutely phenomenal, if there are any Irish supporters on here, I must say you have been a joy to watch and deserve to be there, and I believ that you will make it. I hope Ireland and Bosnia and Herzegovina go through at the expense of France and Portugal.

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