FRANKFURT, Germany – The draw for Euro 2024 has produced some big-time clashes as UEFA considers changes to revive interest in European Championship qualifying matches.
It is worth noting that the finalists of the last tournament will travel to Germany again on Sunday after Italy and England were drawn in the same group. World Cup champions France are another good match against the Netherlands.
But there is a growing sense that the talent format is closing in on audiences and broadcasters.
The last evidence of this current flamboyant form came in the lottery in Frankfurt. 53 national teams were divided into 10 groups of five or six teams, of which 23 qualified for the 2024 tournament in Germany.
At a meeting of UEFA’s member associations on the day of the draw, a proposal was made to reduce the size of each group to four or five teams for the Euro 2028 qualifying rounds, a person with knowledge of the discussions said. The Associated Press
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because it was a private meeting.
The reason for the offer is believed to be a result of reduced interest because there are too many qualifying games. The UEFA Nations League will be expanded to create less qualified groups.
He said the possibility of a 32-team European tournament was also ruled out.
International football leaders have proposed several changes in recent years to keep interest in the game high. Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger recently floated the idea of holding the World Cup every two years instead of four.
At Euro 2020, which was postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Italy beat England on penalties in the final at Wembley Stadium. The teams also faced each other in the last Nations League which resulted in a goalless draw and a 1-0 win for Italy.
But the Roberto Mancini-coached side have had a difficult time since winning Euro 2020, ultimately failing to qualify for this year’s World Cup in Qatar.
Mancini insisted that Italy’s Euro 2020 success was “in the past”.
“Playing against England is always difficult because they are one of the best teams in the world. Also playing at Wembley is always exciting,” Mancini said.
England manager Gareth Southgate is questioning whether he will even be responsible for starting qualifying after a poor run of results has left his side without a win in their last six games.
“As we speak now I have a contract this time in 2024, but I also know very well that in football you have to get results,” Southgate said. “So there’s a plan and there’s a desire to continue, but I also don’t consider that you’re underperforming and expect to stay in this office.”