Neglected seeds finally starting to grow

So, the qualifiers for Euro 2016 are well and truly underway, we’ve had shocks, thrashings and the emergence of a few sleeping minnows that are starting to wake up and realise their potential. What’s really interested me about this campaign so far is the closing up of the gap between the different seeds. Results like Poland’s victory over Germany, Slovakia’s over Spain and Iceland over the Netherlands have really shown that these sides no longer fear the traditional kingpins. Also, the nations that make up the British Isles will be quite pleased with their start. It would be fair to say these countries haven’t lived up to their potential over the past 10/15 years, for various reasons. England have done half the battle by actually getting to the major tournaments for the majority except for one blip for Euro 2008. However the other home nations have seemed lacking in stability and consistency, again for various reasons. It now seems that the tide is turning and it’s great to see from a neutral’s perspective.
There’s advantages and disadvantages of the seeding system for the qualifying groups, but a big disadvantage is that it makes it extremely hard for a new, up and coming team to break into the winners circle. For example, a team in the third or fourth seed, will be placed in a group with two or three teams that are supposed to be better than them. Therefore what would likely happen is that the top two seeds qualify for the finals or at least the play offs and so those top two remain as the top two seeds. The countries at the bottom of the scale have no choice but to wait until they’re drawn with a weaker top seed or weaker second seed and go in for the kill. Until now…
The top seeds in each group when the draw for the qualifying groups was made were Netherlands, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Spain, Germany, England, Greece, Russia, Italy and Portugal. Seems fair enough, those sound like 9 strong sides that nobody would really want to draw. Well, amazingly, out of these 9 top seeds, just England lie at the top of their group after Matchday 3, while all but England, Russia and Italy have been beaten already. However, this tournament finals is different to the previous ones in that there will be 24 European teams in it. While all of these top seeds will have been thinking they will be pretty much guaranteed to finish in the top 3 to at least make it to the play offs, there’s a few now that will be extremely worried about the recent improvement of the supposedly weaker teams. The likes of Northern Ireland, Iceland, Wales, Poland among others have really stepped up to the plate and given the top seeds the kick up the backside they needed. As a proud supporter of the Republic of Ireland, I know that it has felt at times like the system has failed us, the so-called third or lower seeds, but this mini revolution is exactly what’s needed to dethrone the traditional superpowers of European football. Bring on the era of the underdog.

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