France tasked to host 24-teams in Euro 2016
WARSAW THE EUROPEAN football championships return to France in 2016 with quality of play a question mark rather than qualify of organising as in the run-up to the current edition in Poland and Ukraine. The first championships in eastern Europe eventually ran smoothly and were organised well after several hiccups before the action got underway on June 8.No such problems are expected in France, which successfully hosted Euro 1984 and the 1998 World Cup.
But there are question marks as France 2016 will see an expansion of the tournament from 16 to 24 teams - all but half of the 53 members of the continent’s governing body UEFA.
”I am not concerned about the quality. We can have eight additional teams which are as good as the other teams,” said UEFA President Michel Platini, who captained France to the 1984 title and was coorganiser of the World Cup 14 years ago.
However, critics fear for the quality of the tournament which in general has a high level and lives off normally well-balanced group and knockout matches.
Only Ireland and Sweden were eliminated at the current edition ahead of the final round of group match in which the other 14 teams were vying for eight quarterfinal berths.
The tournament is compact in its current form which was established in 1996, with 24 group games, six knock-out games and the final for 31 in total. The number will be up to 51 games in 2016, with 36 group games and a knock-out stage from the round of 16 onwards.
UEFA must also find a modus to determine the size of groups and how teams advance from them.Cynics say the new format is an opening into eastern Europe with potential finalists such as Hungary, Romania, Estonia or Bosnia- Herzegovina.
Platini says that countries such as Switzerland, Serbia, Turkey, Belgium and Norway failed to qualify under the current format but may make it next time around.
”There are many countries missing with 16 teams,” said Platini. “Competing at the European championship is very important for the teams which can qualify.
”Economic and sportspolitical motives seem to be the driving force behind the latest expansion. UEFA can generate more income from more competing teams and sponsorship partners are also interested in more games and longer television hours.
Platini may also be thinking about his personal future and votes from the smaller countries will be important regardless whether he seeks re-election of UEFA president or is after the top job at the world governing body FIFA.