So, EURO 2008 aka the UEFA European Football (Soccer) Championship is going on right now. The games have been pretty good and it’s a very high-quality tournament. EURO is the only soccer tournament that can be put on the same level as the World Cup. Here is my guide to the supposedly major international soccer tournaments and why they rule or suck in order from best to worst.
FIFA WORLD CUP
Pros: Teams from all over the world that complete long, grueling qualification tournaments. Only held every 4 years to keep it special. 1st rate soccer.
Cons: Teams from all over the world dilutes quality (Germany 9-2 Saudi Arabia).
Pros: 1st-rate soccer. Held every 4 years. The qualification tournament is just as difficult as that for the World Cup.
Pros: Teams from all over the world but fewer teams overall, making qualification more selective. Held every 4 years. Players looking to prove themselves. Non-European and non-South American teams can even win the Gold (Nigeria, Cameroon).
Cons: FIFA doesn’t want this tournament to compete with the World Cup for importance so it doesn’t involve the real men’s national teams – rather it involves Under-23-year-old players plus 5 “overage players”. (However, winners of this tournament act like they’ve won the World Cup).
COPA AMERICA (South America)
Pros: Half of the teams are 1st class. Now held every 4 years.
Cons: Held every 2 years until recently. Many of the top players are uninterested in the tournament. There is NO qualification tournament – all 10 South American teams get in automatically. Additionally, the World Cup qualifying for South American teams is really a true championship – all 10 teams play each other twice in a comprehensive league setup.
CAF African Cup of Nations
Pros: Lots and lots of nations in Africa makes for variety. The qualification tournament is long and difficult.
Cons: Held every 2 years making it less special. The soccer is mostly 2nd class.
AFC Asian Cup
Pros: Many countries involved. Held every 4 years. A huge event like World Cup and EURO.
Cons: Asian soccer is 3rd rate (sorry, Asia).
CONCACAF Gold Cup (North America)
Pros: USA and Mexico are 2 of the better 2nd-rate teams in the world.
Cons: 2nd rate soccer overall. Held every 2 years. Canada, USA, Mexico get automatic entry (unfair). Dominated by USA and Mexico.
FIFA Condederations Cup
Pros: Involves each of the continental champions. Held every 4 years.
Cons: Not taken very seriously by European and South American teams. Held in the World Cup host nation 1 year before World Cup – in other words, it’s a dress rehearsal.
OFC Nations Cup (Oceania)
Cons: Why does this region have its own confederation? The total population is 13 million. The soccer is 3rd or 4th rate.
My eagerly anticipated recommendations:
Africa – Needs to hold the tournament every 4 years.
North America, South America – Need to merge their tournaments into 1, hold it every 4 years, have real qualifying.
Oceania – Needs to fold into the Asian Confederation.