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Time for change in qualification campaigns

A couple of years ago I wrote a very similar article to this and nothing has changed.

The system for how teams qualify for major tournaments I’m talking about.

England faces San Marino this evening Wembley looking to notch up a cricket score.


The old phrase there isn’t any easy games in international is a joke. This is an easy game by anybody’s standards.

San Marino is the worst team in the UEFA ranks, number 207. In fact in FIFA’s world rankings they are ranked alongside Bhutan and the Turks and Caicos Islands as the lowest ranked nation in the world.


It’s not San Marino’s fault that they get such poor results. San Marino is the smallest country under UEFA’s wing. As such they only have a small talent pool from which to draw their players from.

That means that they are very limited in the players they can chose for the national team. Most of the San Marino players are not even professional footballers, which in itself is a handicap.


This brings me to an idea that has been raised before and that’s pre-qualifying for these group stages. It would cut down the amount of games dramatically and save everybody’s time and energy.

The likes of San Marino wouldn’t get the thrill of playing the higher ranked nations anymore, but maybe it would inspire them to become better as a football nation. It would also stop some of the embarrassing scorelines we regularly witness when high ranked European nations face minnows.

England has already had the dubious pleasure of visiting Moldova and winning comfortably. An even bigger victory is expected as San Marino visit Wembley. It’s not fair on those brave souls that put on their national shirt with pride, but that are just not good enough, it’s not fair to the San Marino players either!

Seriously though I think a pre-qualifying for the group stages of qualification would be far better for the bigger nations. It might impact on the smaller nations, but for the good of the game we should end up with better quality qualification stages.


Anyway back to tonight’s clash. England will be without Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole. Manchester United pair Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley will deputise for the pair.

Everton full-back Leighton Baines will again start at left-back in place of Cole. Baines is rather unfortunate to have Cole in front of him. In most other generations he would have picked up far more caps than he has done.

However, the Chelsea man is considered to be the best left-back in the world and Baines chances have been very limited since he broken into the squad. He deserves his chance for England after such consistent performances for his club side.


With or without the likes of Cole, Lampard and Gerrard this clash should be a stroll in the park for Roy Hodgson’s men. The likes of Jermain Defoe and Wayne Rooney will be looking to add to their goal tallies for England.

England have only played San Marino twice in competitive action and each time an England player has scored four goals, Ian Wright and David Platt the big hitters. That tally isn’t beyond the England strikers this evening.

San Marino will be looking to come to Wembley to enjoy the experience and try to keep the score line respectable. The England crowd will be expecting goals and if England can’t give them just that then the Three Lions don’t deserve to go to the World Cup. No easy game in international football, don’t make me laugh!

Should countries have to qualify for qualification stages?

Fri 12 Oct, 2012
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  1. olivia says:

    I think a pre-qualifying tournament is a great idea. There are so many meaningless games now and I just can’t see who benefits from these games. I don’t think it is any fun watching these one sided games. When these minnows occasionally pick up points it only happens when the spectacle has been particularly poor and the somewhat bigger country has missed a boatload of chances. Qualifying would actually even be a lot more meaningful if less teams were to qualify for the World Cup and European Championships…

  2. David Nugent says:

    Thank you for your comment Olivia. I agree with you completely.

  3. Brad says:

    Fantastic idea. In a way, CONCACAF does this, as the lower ranked nations in the region play aggregate score deciding games up until the semifinal round, which is currently under progress.

    However, you still get cricket scores, even amongst the small teams. It’s incredible just how many goals the Bahamas (for example) can put past either the other, smaller islands out there. So, even among the minnows, you’ll never completely get rid of the blowouts. Just most of them.

  4. David Nugent says:

    Yeah Brad, your right about never completely eliminating cricket score lines. However, like you say other regions have pre-qualifiers and it makes sense. As a supporter I take next to no pleasure in watching England hammer teams like San Marino.

  5. Brad says:

    When it comes to breaking records, at least, I take some small pleasure. Such as when we opened our own qualifying last time around with an 8-0 win over Barbados. Biggest scoreline we’ve ever put up, and you can never be too confident that’s how it’ll always be: the aggregate score that week was 9-0 for the US.

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