FIFA wants us to believe this isn’t about the money, it’s about “growing the game”, but please, this is about the money.
And that’s ok. Just admit it FIFA.
The downsides to the change are obvious. Think about the 15-16 seeds in the NCAA basketball tournament, for example. Sure, occasionally you get a nice story out of these teams being competitive, but most of the time, those games suck. (And really, given the competitive balance in world soccer, it might be more comparable to the 15-16 seeds in the Women’s tournament.)
So there are going to be some ugly games out there. OK, deal with it.
The move to individual time slots though and three team groups, is a concern. There actually is a reason that the last group games are played at the same time, to prevent teams from knowing what outcome they need ahead of time and colluding together to produce that outcome. I’m not a fan of changing those times to make TV happy and running the risk. It will happen eventually.
With three teams in each group, it would be easy as pie for the last game to occur between two teams that collude to get each other to the next round, leaving the third team out.
For example – let’s take Teams A,B and C in a group.
- Team A defeats Team B by a 3-1 score
- Team B ties Team C
- Team A now has the option of deciding whether they would rather Team B moves on by trying their best to defeat Team C by more goals, or simply allowing Team C to keep it close and letting them move on.
That’s a problem. One that could easily be eliminated by having 12 groups of 4, and then adding in second place teams along with the top 8 third place teams.
Or, it’s a problem that they are creating so that then they can go to a 64 team tournament to fix it….?
This is FIFA, I wouldn’t put anything past them.