Monday, September 28, 2015

You can't have it both ways, Monsieur Platini

Last week FIFA announced the dates for the Qatar 2022 World Cup Finals. The tournament will begin on November 21st with the Final scheduled for December 18th. The entire tournament will therefore last 28 days. This is three days shorter than the 2018 World Cup Finals being played June 14th to July 15th.

I had a look at how the tournament could be scheduled, using the same basic format as that being used in the 2018 World Cup, while still allowing every participating team reasonable breaks in between matches. It wasn’t too difficult to come up with a schedule that seems to be fair, although it does require four Group Stage matches to be played on each of the first twelve days of the tournament, including the opening day, which would be a departure from tradition.

In the already announced 2018 and likely 2022 schedules, the 32 teams have the following average breaks between matches:

The shortest interval between matches for any team in both schedules is three days. The longest is six days in the 2018 schedule and five in the 2022 schedule.

Holding a 28-day World Cup Finals under the current format is therefore possible without causing any great disadvantage to any given participating team.

So far, so good.

But let us remember that Michel Platini, whom it has been confirmed voted for the 2022 World Cup Finals to be held in Qatar, has reportedly been advocating for a 40-team World Cup Finals, split into eight groups of five teams, beginning in 2018.

This appears to be a key part of his FIFA Presidential election platform. Permitting an additional eight countries to participate in the World Cup Finals is obviously an attractive proposition to voters.

Unfortunately, I don’t see any way that it can possibly work within the confines of a 28-day tournament. Adding a fifth team to each group requires the addition of two extra match days in each first round group; one for the game against the extra team and one for the bye round.

This looks like just another example of Platini pandering to voters rather than thinking things through. Does he want a 40-team World Cup Finals, or does he want a 28-day Winter World Cup Finals in Qatar?

He can’t have both.

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