Thursday, April 28, 2011
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Combining the Copas?
Have you ever thought about what it would be like to combine the Copa America (the CONMEBOL championship) and the Gold Cup (the CONCACAF championship)? Just think about it for a minute.
Did you have visions of Canada’s excellent performance against Brazil in Seattle? Or our Victory over Colombia in the Gold Cup final? Or our defeat in Buenos Aires? It is not that absurd a question given that CONMEBOL invites teams from other regions to participate in the Copa America anyway. In fact Mexico is a regular attendee. Canada was invited after we won the Gold Cup, however we declined the invitation due to security concerns in Colombia. As well the Gold Cup has invited CONMEBOL teams in the past too, as I mentioned above we beat Colombia in the Gold Cup final.
What would a combined tournament look like?
I imagine that the tournament would feature 16 teams in four groups. With the top two from each group advancing to the quarterfinals. Based on the current FIFA rankings the top 16 teams in the regions are: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, USA, Paraguay, Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Jamaica, Venezuela, Panama, and Canada. So the groups would likely be something like this:
Group 1 – Brazil, Honduras, Colombia, Canada
Group 2 – Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Panama
Group 3 – Uruguay, Paraguay, Costa Rica, and Venezuela
Group 4 – Chile, USA, Ecuador, Jamaica
Looks like a good tournament to me. What do you think? One issue that the new tournament would face, is how often to play. Currently the Gold Cup is every two years, while the Copa America is every four years. I think it is more likely that the combined tournament would take place every four years. That said it would be fantastic if it was played every two years. Each tournament could rotate between North and South America, so it would be four years between tournaments on each continent.
What would qualifying look like?
Currently there is no qualifying for the Copa America. All ten CONMEBOL sides are included and two other sides (usually Mexico and another nation) are invited. At the Gold Cup, Canada, USA, and Mexico are given automatic berths while other nations must qualify. There is no chance of a combined qualifying involving all 45 of the teams. There is no way that Brazil etc would go for it. Brazil make millions playing friendlies around the globe, they certainly wouldn’t want to use an international break to play away to St. Vincent. I think that the most likely scenario is either that the eight highest ranked sides are given automatic berths. The rest of the sides would then compete for the remaining 8 places. That would mean that Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia and Canada would all have to go through a qualification process to make the Cup. Also the 13 lowest ranked sides would compete in pre qualifying for 8 places. Pre-qualifying is already a feature of the Gold Cup Qualification process. That would give 8 groups of 4 with the group winner advancing to the Cup.
This would be a good thing for Canada. Qualification gives us more opportunities to cap-tie players, and also a chance to accrue more ranking points. Qualification matches are worth two and half times a friendly match. I am not sure how Colombia, Peru, Venezuela and Bolivia would feel about it though. I think that they may go for it, for similar reasons as it appeals to Canada. However if they don’t like it there is another option. All the CONMEBOL teams qualify and CONCACAF sides qualify against each other for the six remaining places. I really can’t see CONCACAF going for this one. It doesn’t really provide the incentive to combine the two tournaments, especially since a number of CONCACAF sides have been invited to the tournament anyway. That would mean giving up their regional tournament for four more places in CONMEBOL’s doesn’t strike me as likely.
Could it happen?
I really don’t know. I think that it would be a good thing for football in the Americas. One side effect that could come from this would be talk of combining the federations entirely. That would mean that there are 8 World Cup places for the Americas. If you are curious the current top 8 from the Americas includes 5 South American sides and 3 North American sides. I think that this combining the tournament would have a positive impact on football in Canada. We would play more competitive matches and a few of them would be against some of the top sides in the World. It would also help to change the perception that Canada is not a footballing country if we are regularly competing with South American sides. Not to mention we may get a chance to host the Cup. That would be a fantastic opportunity for football fans around the country and a definite boost to our football infrastructure.
This article is also published at The Subs Bench
Monday, April 11, 2011
Friday, April 8, 2011
Queens Park Rangers.
Why they are 9 points clear at the top presently. There next three matches are away to last place Scunthorpe and Barnsley, plus home to Derby. I expect them to win all three of these matches which will in essence lock up the title for them. I think they will lift the trophy at Loftus Road when they host Hull on April 25th.
Who will grab the second promotion place?
It will be a very tight race and could easily go the other way depending on a few results. The team that I see pushing them to the end is Cardiff. Norwich's next match is away to Swansea if they lose that then it becomes a 3 team race for second. I think Norwich will do enough to get at least a draw.
Who will be in the Playoffs?
Cardiff, Swansea, Reading, and Leeds.
The two Welsh sides are locks for playoff spots. But the other two playoff places are part of a wide open race involving heaps of teams. I think that Reading will get on a bit of a winning streak and force themselves into the playoffs. While the fight between Leeds and Nottingham Forest will be for the final spot. Unfortunately for Forest fans, I think they will fall just short. No doubt a disappointing end to what looked like a promising campaign.
So... what about Pompey?
I think that though Pompey are mathematically amongst the heap of teams with a chance at a playoff place, their schedule is too tough for them to win out. That said they will move up a few places and finish with a solid tenth. This will give us a strong foundation to build on for next year. I will be happy with this finish given how much of the season we spent worried about ending up in the relegation battle.
Who will be dropping down to League One?
Scunthorpe, Sheffield United, and Doncaster
Scunthorpe are a lost cause and will finish in last. Sheffield United seem to have lost the belief. They have an absolutely huge game away to Preston in a few weeks. Which you may have guessed I think PNE will win. Preston seem to have found some belief and have been grabbing a lot more points. That said it will be a stiff task to catch any of the teams above them. To do this they need to continue playing with the same belief they discovered in the past few weeks. With Doncaster, they have been far from fantastic and I don't see them getting many points in their final 7 matches. In reality if they get it together and get 4 or 5 points they will survive. However I didn't see them getting that many. When I worked it out, I actually had them taking the drop on goal difference. If you are wondering why I didn't mention Crystal Palace, it is because of their phenomenal home record (36 of 42 points at home). They are a top 10 team at home, so with there 3 remaining home matches they are as good as safe.
Disagree? Agree? Let me know your predictions in the comments.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Cricket Canada statement on ICC Decision
Toronto, Ontario April 6, 2011 - Cricket Canada is disheartened to learn the International Cricket Council has elected to not allow Associate cricket nations such as Canada into the 2015 Cricket World Cup. While it is apparent that the push for a 10 team tournament supports the needs of the sponsors and broadcasters who ultimately fund much of our programs, we were very disappointed to learn that there would be no qualification process for the 2015 Cricket World Cup.
From the results of the recently completed 2011 Cricket World Cup in the subcontinent, it is apparent that Associate nations are able to compete at the international level and need more encouragement to develop their high performance teams against the full member nations. Canadian players turned out strong performances in this world cup and the decision will surely mark the end of world cup careers for several of our players in the prime of their careers.
An additional disappointment will be players who gained experience at this world cup like 20 year old Hiral Patel. Hiral, who hit a blistering half century against defending champions Australia, will be closer to the end of his career by the time he gets a chance to compete in the games marquee event again. We have had significant interest and profile generated in Canadian cricket as a result of our participation in the world cup, and this increase in our sport would surely wane if we are not allowed to participate in the world cup for at eight years or more.
The ICC has pointed to the fact that the Twenty20 world cup has been expanded to include more associate and affiliate teams but as many of us know, while Twenty20 is a way to develop the commercial enterprise of the game it is not a way forward to develop the game itself in all its forms. This short-sighted decision also has far reaching effects as it will become more difficult to raise money from governments and corporate partners, both of who strive to be associated with the game at its highest level.
Cricket Canada proposes a conference of all stake holders be called to discuss the path forward for the associates and affiliates. It is important that representatives from all major groups including Full members, Associate Members and Affiliate Members attend this session and put forward their positions in an open and objective manner to arrive at a solution that is fair to all. Only by consulting all stakeholders can we arrive at an amicable solution.
Cricket Canada is very grateful for the overwhelming support that has been received from around the world regarding this decision and we are working with our associate and affiliate partners to bring about a satisfactory compromise. We encourage all followers of the game around the world to continue to lobby your local administrators as well as the ICC to reverse this tragic decision.
Let us take a minute to examine why this is a ridiculous decision from the ICC.
1. Cricket is growing around the globe. Stopping all new countries from competing at the World Cup will have a huge impact on the growth of the sport in new areas.
2. It will kill some teams. Ireland have already raised this issue with the ICC: sponsors are likely to leave and with no sponsors and no prospect of attracting new ones of the same level it could kill the Irish Cricket Board; no doubt Canada are in a similar place.
3. Players will leave. The World Cup is a big draw for cricketers, and with no World Cup prospects some players may opt to switch countries. England's side that lost to Ireland featured an Irish player from the last World Cup, along with a few South Africans.
4. It turns new fans off cricket all together. There is nothing like gross injustice to take the joy out of a sport. I am a big cricket fan, but I am having a hard time getting up for the IPL because I am so angry with the ICC. I can see a lot of fans that were gained in the last months just walking away.
5. It will cost them money. With fewer countries involved there will be fewer countries wanting advertising and wanting to buy the TV rights. Plus, by cutting the number of matches nearly in half they are going to reduce their ticket revenue.
So there are five things that likely didn't cross the ICC's mind when they made their ridiculous decision. But let's return to why they made it: the World Cup at 43 days took too long and there were too many matches against "minnows". You had 14 teams divided into two groups and playing a round robin. That takes time - why not ADD two more teams and then have 4 groups of 4? With two groups of 7 there were 42 group matches. With two groups of 5 there are 20. With 4 groups of 4 there are 24. So by adding two more teams to the World Cup instead of dropping four, the net gain in matches played is four. I think that is certainly manageable and the tournament would increase cricket's popularity rather than detract from it.
I think the ICC has been a little too hasty in their re-organisation of the World Cup. Hopefully they re-examine their options with pressure from Ireland, Canada, and other nations. The way to continue cricket's growth in the world is not by closing doors, but by opening them.