Improve Saudi Arabia by giving them Virgil van Dijk

Date published: Friday 15th June 2018 1:40

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Draft cheer
Obviously I am very much looking forward to a month of solid football – but the only downside is I don’t get to see my new hero Aubameyang in any of it. And given he represents Gabon, he is likely to join an illustrious list of greats never to appear on the main stage.

It got me thinking, why not allow each qualified country to include one player from any country which has not qualified in their own right – so yes Bale – no Lacazette. They can be allocated using a draft system similar to the US where the lowest rank team gets first pick. Maybe Saudi Arabia wouldn’t have been so shoddy with Virgil van Dijk in the defence.

Sanchez, Mahrez, Ramsey, Balotelli, Keita – all in the tournament – sounds good to me…
Rob G


Euro vision
For anyone who was left thinking Saudi Arabia were awful, this is just a trailer for the drop off in quality which will come in 2026. As part of Gianni Infantino’s bid to win votes for the presidency, sorry- bid to widen the appeal of the game around the world, not only will the World Cup be expanded to 48 teams but also the distribution of places has been skewed massively.

Africa will go from 5 places to 9. This is probably defendable and a little overdue. On current rankings this will bring in Tunisia, Senegal, Congo, Morocco, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Burkina Faso. The next two would be Mali and Cape Verde. Amazingly Ivory Coast and Algeria are still a way off.

South America goes from 4.5 to 6. Again probably OK but now 60% of South American teams will qualify which makes the qualifying a little dull. On current rankings we would see Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Uruguay and Colombia.

Now we get a little more sticky. Oceania gets a place which means New Zealand get a free pass. If they slip up one time it will be Solomon Islands or New Caledonia(!).

Asia will go from 4.5 to 8. On current rankings this is Australia, Iran, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, China and the UAE. If any of those slip up it is Lebanon and Oman next.

Central and Northern America goes from a frankly already overcooked 3.5 to a completely mental 6. Basically they looked at just how many places would be needed to absolutely guarantee the USA qualify. On current rankings the qualifiers would be Mexico, Costa Rica, USA, Jamaica, Panama and Honduras. The next three are El Salvador, Canada and Curacao.

So far, so odd. The real impact is on Europe though. The allocation for the Americas almost doubles, as does Africa and Asia. Europe however goes from 13 to 16. This means 32 teams from outside Europe will qualify. On current rankings the following are outside the qualifying places- Turkey, Slovakia, Scotland, Romania, Republic of Ireland, Serbia, Ukraine, Russia, Greece, Czech Republic, Norway and Northern Ireland. This is on top of Italy, Holland and Wales not qualifying under the current allocation. Russia just hammered one of the shoe-ins for a place from Asia 5-0 but, while Russia are unlikely to qualify without hosting, Saudi Arabia will be back time and time again.

The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed this is 46 spaces. The final 2 spaces will be decided by a playoff tournament which will bring together 6 unqualified teams which is one from each confederation… except Europe! The best non-qualifier from each of Asia (Oman?), Central/ North America (Curacao?), South America, Africa and Oceania (Solomon Islands?) and an additional team from the host confederation (seriously, we could be on to Nicaragua by now).

I love that football is a global game but surely the World Cup should be a test of the best against the best. Watching New Caledonia against Jamaica is not the best against the best. Watching Brazil put 10 past Syria while Turkey sit at home is less than ideal. It is almost like the decisions are made in FIFA on the basis of how much money they can make rather than on sporting grounds.
Micki (can anyone explain why Europe aren’t in the playoff tournament?) Attridge


Incey wincey
I am surprised that Mediawatch did not pick up on the ridiculous claim by Paul Ince that England would have easily won the world cup in 98 were it not for Beckham’s red card. He goes on to say, and this is a direct quote,  “There were no outstanding teams in that competition and even though the French were at home, I’d have fancied us beating them if we had got that far.”

Just a reminder. Had England beaten Argentina, they would have gone on to face the Netherlands. A team comprised of Van Der Sar, the De Boer brothers, Bergkamp, Kluivert, Overmars, Seedorf, Davids and many more. After that, Brazil in the semis. You know the team,  Ronaldo and Rivaldo in their peaks, Leonardo, Dunga, Denilson when he was good, Cafu, and Roberto Carlos. And if somehow they had gone through, it would have been France. Zidane, Djorkaeff, a frightenning back four covered by two great central midfielders that conceded only 2 goals in the tournament with Barthez, Blanc, Desailly, Lizarazu, Thuram, Petit and Deschamps.

This is not even counting the exciting teams like Nigeria, Denmark, Croatia.

Revisionism, is fine and all, and England did have a fine squad, but this was probably one of the most stacked world cups in history. To make such a ridiculous claim is beyond words.
Guillaume, (Almost all these teams were one on side of the draw, bar Croatia, France and Italy), Ottawa 


Grounds for concern
Dan, East Mids, Are you seriously trying to say if the UK hosted a world cup they would not use Old Trafford? Considering it as one of the biggest tourism spots for football lovers in the world to visit I think that is pretty naïve. Yet Elland Road gets a mention as a well-known stadium? Seemingly the only reasons that you have included Hampden and the Millennium stadium are to get the Scottish/Welsh in, seems more like an England hosted World Cup you are proposing with your two mates getting a handful of games each. By 2030 there will be a 48 Team world Cup more than twelve stadiums are likely to be utilised.

I can’t understand why you would include so many stadiums that will need an upgrade in seating to meet the criteria you set with the 2014 World Cup, if you think the FA/UK Government is going to splash out on upgrading these then you don’t know an awful  lot about them.

Pride Park but not Old Trafford? Seriously?
Dan, Belfast


Swap shop
So Sarri wants to come to Chelsea meaning Napoli need a new manager but Chelsea have to pay a hefty £9m to Conte.

Why don’t the two clubs just swap managers?

Chelsea have to pay Conte the money whatever happens and this way Napoli get the former Italy manager for nothing.

Given Napoli are in the Champions League and Chelsea aren’t and he gets to return to Italy, this one seems to make sense for everyone.

Or am I missing something here?
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


Working hard or hardly working…
I’m sat at work doing me numbers with my earphones in listening to the pre-match discussion on Egypt v Uruguay, game update pop-ups are prepared on my computer screen, and with the game to be streamed on my phone. Nobody can see this.

Just realised this will be the setup all next week too. That’s not even mentioning the 2 additional games each and every day.

People are asking me why I’m grinning, but I can’t blow my cover. Genuinely feel like I’ve been given the afternoon off for those days. Matchday 1 is always fun, but this where it really starts.
Chris ITFC, Liverpool


Re. Mediawatch – Weird Intro of the Day
, wouldn’t it clearly be versus a select 11 of the KFC employees?

If we are playing France we aren’t playing all 60 million of them or the founder!! (Napoleon? I dunno)
Tom M (amazing out of everything that happens in football and in the mailbox this is what I write in about) QPR


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