I've always thought it was weird that we have to hit the pause button on the new season for either European Championship or World Cup qualifiers. It's three games, sometimes four, and then everyone break. Then you get another few, this time more because of the Champions League, before we pause again for more qualifiers. Wouldn't it be better to just bunch them all together over two weeks instead of two separate ones?
But that won't be happening anytime soon, and I see a lot of teeth-gnashing about how the Euro field has been expanded to 24 for 2016. I used to feel that way too. I thought the great thing about the European Championships is that no team could duck the big guns. There was always two big teams in a group. Holland had to play Germany or Portugal had to play France or whatever. If you won your group, you certainly earned it. Whereas in World Cup play, the seeded teams could go a while before facing anyone tough, if ever. At least the quarters.
Now? Well, you'll have six seeds, obviously France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Holland, and I'll guess Belgium? Maybe Portugal? That leaves whoever isn't a seed, England, Croatia, Russia, as sort of the second tier (and England's claim to that is tenuous at best). So we won't lose all of that, but needless to say there will be some teams that would be considered batting practice.
But hasn't that always been the case? Ireland got seriously paddled around last time we did this. Greece did in Austria and Switzerland. But generally there's only been one or two teams that have been hanging curveballs. We can obviously expect that number to go up now.
What it has done is basically take the drama out of qualifying. The big teams are really going to have to fuck up to not even get a playoff spot, and most could have spots sewn up by the end of this season if not sooner. Even Hodgson should manage this.
-Speaking of England, it's been kind of hilarious to watch Hodgson try and get Liverpool form out of Henderson and Sterling, and really only getting it right in this last fixture against Switzerland. Sure, Hodgson has the problem of having to accommodate the entrenched Wayne Rooney (if he indeed should be) and other problems. But Henderson has been played way too deep, and then Sterling shoved out wide without a forward who exchanges with him as he gets at Liverpool.
Finally, Sterling was put behind two strikers in Basel, and we all saw the results. Henderson was still a bit too deep, but there aren't a lot of alternatives there.
And the funny thing is, I still wonder if that's where he should play for Liverpool. We can't deny his effectiveness, and I don't think there's been a Liverpool player who fills us with such anticipation when he gets the ball because of the way he can now wriggle through and out of traffic and into the box. But that involves playing behind two strikers, and I think the way forwards is a front three. And what of Coutinho if this is where Sterling will stick? I guess I'm glad I don't have to solve these problems.