With the increased globalization of the game, major tournaments are heading to new lands. Austria and Switzerland hosted Euro 2008, with next year's event heading to Poland and Ukraine. Last year South Africa staged the World Cup with Russia and Qatar on the horizon. While I'm all for spreading the game around the globe (aside for whatever shadiness helped Qatar land the 2022 World Cup), this trend presents a flaw with regards to tournament seeding.
Tournament hosts automatically qualify, which makes perfect sense. If you're hosting a party, you're obviously getting a seat at the table. For countries such as Austria, South Africa and Qatar, this means a rare chance to compete. For the likes of Russia and Poland, it guarantees entry into an event where sometimes they qualify and sometimes they don't. But I think it's absurd that, when it comes time for the draw, the qualifying hosts are further rewarded with unjustified one seeds that throw off the balance of the opening round.
Take last Friday's Euro 2012 draw as an example. The pre-dertermined one seeds were Spain and Netherlands (certainly deserving) along with co-hosts Poland and Ukraine. Instead of one seeds going to, say Germany and Portugal, those two teams ended up in the Group of Death, Group B, with Holland. Where's the fairness there?
Of course, the potential for a Group of Death adds excitement to the draw and creates better opening round matches. But consider that from the trio of Holland, Germany and Portugal, at least one side will miss the knockout round, while among Russia, Greece and Poland, at least one will advance. The quarterfinals get watered down when teams aren't slotted properly.
Although co-hosts double the problem, at least the 16-team Euro field is deep enough to make this less of an issue. But in the World Cup, where there's a large gap between the contenders and the countries that are just happy to be there, giving a one seed to a South Africa or Qatar is absurd. We still have 10 years until Qatar hosts a World Cup. Let's hope there's a change to the seeding system before then.
And with that post, I'm proud to say that I wrote at least one in 2011, one day shy of the anniversary of my last post. Time and energy for blogging are in short supply these days, but I'm determined not to totally abandon my humble Soccer Haus. If you made it this far, thanks for reading!