Thrashings expose UEFA’s EURO folly

England begin the true journey to Brazil 2014 at Wembley tonight against Oleg Blokhin’s Ukraine side not too dissimilar to the opposition faced in Donetsk in the third match of Group D in Euro 2012. That match, shaded by Wayne Rooney’s goal against a host-dominated run of play in which 16 shots peppered the England goal and also forced a contentiously disallowed goal, shoud be a more reliable barometer into the standard of England should face tonight, a marked step up in quality from the demolition of Moldova last Friday.

Roy Hodgson has stuck by the blueprint for the future by drafting in the likes of uncapped Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana for some vital experience, but there is also a clear feeling that in blooding such youth during a period of heavy transition where valid replacements for the still vital experience of Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard are being searched for as they approach the end of their cycle, Hodgson will have Euro2016 in his thinking as much as Brazil, which may be too early for any true shot at long-awaited glory.

But it is those Euros in France, four years from now, that will benefit the likes of Moldova as much as England as sadly, UEFA have decided to swell the numbers of qualifiers from 16 to 24 with this year’s tournament director Martin Kallen and supporter of the expansion, using the likes of Lithuania, Montenegro, Slovenia and Scotland to give strength to his argument, seemingly unaware of a qualifying process which can cause the likes of Lithuania to win just one in eight. 

England have Montenegro in World Cup group H this time around, a country that never one a match away from home in qualifying for Poland/ Ukraine, as well as San Marino, a team that has never won a single match in qualifying competition and Moldova of course, who were so drastically wretched in Chisnau last Friday. Yet, as Kallen holds the door “open” for many great teams who weren’t at the showpiece of this summer like Bulgaria, who failed to win, or evn score, at home during their last qualifying process, there will be a hope for those minnows that they could sneak in.

And UEFA would be blind of course, to the noticeable drop in standard that would be caused by repeats of Republic Of Ireland’s showing of this summer; played 3, lost 3, as more money would facilitate any amount of average footballers permitted to play on the highest level. Moldova probably won’t stand a chance even with a wider capture zone for qualification such was the woeful standard of their performance against what was a weakened England team in Chisnau, yet, like England, they will be waiting for Euro 2016 for what would be a proper crack at success, in their case, mere qualification. If Romania, winner of just 3 matches in their Euro 2012 qualification group are seen as a “great” team deserving of its place at the top level, then surely Moldova will fancy a crack at that too.