Champions League and GROUP stages: Something’s got to give

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
March 13th, 2003 • 8:20 pm

The current situation in the Champions League is unacceptable, and it was the same at that stage last year, and the year before that, etc.

There are teams that are already qualified and therefore don’t care one bit what their results in the last two GROUP games are. They can make all kinds of claims to the contrary, saying that they will do the honourable thing and play real football instead of just watching the opposition run past them — but even if they field their “A-team” players, the desire to win or even just provide decent opposition just isn’t there.

There was some controversy regarding the Man U vs. Basel game last night, in which Alex Ferguson only fielded two regulars:

United in clear over weakened team

Of course they did everything by the book and cannot be sanctioned for it. But what’s the point of HAVING these games at all then? It destroys the value of the competition, and it simply isn’t in the spirit of the game.

This brings to mind the dreadful GROUP game between England and Nigeria in the last World Cup, where both teams knew that a draw would be enough for them to qualify, and simply did not play at all. They even stopped moving forward 10 minutes before the end and just kept passing the ball along. It was shameful!

There are clearly things that are very wrong in the way these competitions are organized. I know that HAVING more games brings more money, but it also dilutes the value of the competition and brings disrepute to the game, like this England vs. Nigeria bore-fest did.

I am not against the idea of GROUP stages, but maybe changes could be made to the way points are counted. For example, we could have 0 point for a defeat, 1 point for a draw, 2 points for a win with a 1-goal lead, and 3 points for a win with a 2-goal lead or more.

This would create fewer situations where teams have enough points and don’t need to do anything anymore.

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