Tuesday, 10 June 2014
How it all works, from qualifying through to the final
In June 2011, the first match in the qualification process for this year’s tournament took place. 203 teams were vying for the 31 places left up for grabs, after
as hosts had secured an automatic place. Let us play a little game, I will list
3 nations that have attempted to qualify and you must guess where they are
without using Google or Wikipedia at least to start with.
Tuvalu, Burundi, the Cook Islands.
I imagine that most of us would have had some difficulty finding some of the participating nations on a map if required to do so, but such is the lure of being in the finals tournament and the reason why it takes so long.
Another interesting nugget is that size doesn't matter at least in qualifying, India has never qualified and China has only ever qualified once and then lost all 3 of its games, between them they have over 2.5 billion citizens whereas say Slovenia who qualified in 2010 has only 2 million.
The process finished in November 2013 after 620 matches had been played and the draw to determine the 8 groups was held in December 2013.
There are 5 teams from Africa, 5 from S America, 4 from Central and North America, 5 from Asia and Australasia with 13 countries from
Europe rounding out the 32. I already hear the inevitable
question being asked, why the inequality, why so many for Europe?
The most likely answer is money and although FIFA, the governing body of world football is a non-profit organization, it does reportedly have one billion dollars in a Swiss bank account which is a reserve according to them. Reserve for what? Answers on a postcard can be sent to FIFA HQ in
Zurich or posted in the
comments section below.
Unfortunately FIFA lurches from one bribery scandal to another, but let us not get sidetracked.
Back to the format, in the first round, each team will play 3 games, one each against the other teams in their group, with there being 3 points for a win and 1 for a draw. If 2 teams finish level on points, the places will be determined by what is known as goal difference, i.e. how many goals scored for against goals conceded.
The top 2 sides from each group will proceed into the last 16 which is a straight knockout, the equivalent for our American readers of your sweet 16 in college basketball. We then have 8 teams left in the quarter-finals (elite 8) which will be whittled down to 4 who will play in the semi finals (final 4) and then 2 who will contest the final.
There is also a rather arcane game between the 2 losers of the semi-finals to see who will finish 3rd, who cares, and even I can not remember who finished 3rd 4 years ago
Now we know how it works the next post will preview groups A and B.