Euro 2016 qualifiers

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 20th, 2014

No Good Anymore…

The old cliché of ‘if it aint broke, don’t fix it,’ clearly has a different meaning for the fools who run football. Of course for FIFA, everything is ‘fixed’ from World Cup venues to Presidential elections. But even at UEFA, it seems endemic and pointless meddling is very much trending.

This Sunday throws up (literally) the draw for the Euro 2016 qualifiers, a traditionally dull event occurring at a time of the season when most football fans cannot see beyond their next match, let alone beyond the summer World Cup. Yet this time around, there will be some interest in the draw, given it launches the new 24 team ‘in-no-way-diluted-standard’ Euros. There will be nine groups, with the top two in each qualifying. The best third place team will also make it through, and the other eight will play-off. Lob in holders France, and we get to 24.

In the betting, two teams stand out for us. Belgium have become every pundit’s ‘dark horse’ for the 2014 World Cup, to the extent that if anything they are now slightly over-rated (what is known in the trade as the ‘Lee Carsley Effect’.) But two years down the line, playing at home (or pretty close to it), expect Benteke & Co to give you a healthy run for your money.

For an outsider, look at the Republic of Ireland. Almost certain to qualify out of Pot 2 in the new format, and besides, would you want to argue with Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane?

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