Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope you all had a restful weekend (and enjoyed the MLS playoff drama) and are gearing up for a productive week.
I know the debate has mostly passed and I think most of us are grateful for it, but I feel compelled to dive into the horrible, no-good, very bad World Cup qualifying debate which emerged on Twitter over the weekend, because I think it is actually quite relevant to us all who value soccer in North America (which clearly you do if you’re reading this).
In case you are not as Online (TM) as many of us on this blog are, firstly consider yourself lucky you missed this. To put it succinctly, the news that one of Italy and Portugal will not be in World Cup 2022 disgruntled some folks. On its face, it makes sense. Either the country of one of the game’s biggest stars or the defending European champions won’t be at the World Cup — kinda wild, huh?
Some people, however, decided to turn this into a referendum on the structure of World Cup Qualifying, noting that you could argue that UEFA is so strong they theoretically deserve more qualifying slots. This is an argument I reject but I guess I can see how you could argue this and don’t think it is a point without merit. But it quickly descended into a weird, Euro-centric place with which I (and many others) were not comfortable, basically that the World Cup should really only be comprised of European countries and a couple South American teams if it were to be the best judge of crowning a world champion. And, moreover, that other countries should sign onto this because it would make them the most money AND moreover, the only reason the unfair system currently exists is because FIFA wants to curry favor with African and Asian federations (which is probably the most factually accurate argument you could make against the current structure).
First, let us dispense with the notion that Italy or Portugal have been wronged. Portugal drew with Ireland and Italy drew with Northern Ireland and Bulgaria and still was a Jorginho missed penalty away from qualifying. All of these teams are poorer than most nations that reach the Octo or are in CONMEBOL qualifying. The two countries have no one but themselves to blame for their situation. Good teams from South America routinely don’t qualify due to the rigors of their process and no one bats an eye. Heck, Holland didn’t qualify for two straight major tournaments and no one cared. This is a non-issue.
But the thing which always distresses me is seeing how few people truly care about growing the game globally. Canada is a perfect example of this. The success of the men’s national team has gotten to the point where I listened to a radio story asking whether soccer, powered by Alphonso Davies and a growing immigrant community, could supplant hockey as the number one sport in Edmonton. Maybe a bit hyperbolic but it is safe to say the team’s success has been one of the best storylines in World Cup Qualifying globally — with massive commercial and sporting implications.
Saying that CONCACAF does not deserve the berth which ultimately will go (I am fairly confident) to Canada not only is a slap in the fact to the confederation as a whole but also the value of these types of stories. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has a shot at qualifying for the World Cup — you don’t think that’s a story worth telling? Panama loses 6-1 once and everyone forgets about Senegal beating France in 2002 or Trinidad putting in a shift in 2006.
I know I’m preaching to the choir here but I don’t want to live into a world in which these stories don’t have value. The arguments on social media make me wonder how many people out there share that sentiment. In the world we live in, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. I hope those folks will re-evaluate when Alphonso Davies or Jonathan David score the first goal in 2022.
Onto the links ...
Shameless Self Promotion
In case your mind wasn’t spinning with potential lower league player signings for the Caps, Caleb has a host of guys who might not be worth snapping up yet but who you should be keeping an eye on.
Best of the Rest
Theo Bair wrapped up his season on loan in the Norwegian second division, helping HamKam secure promotion and the league title. Congrats Theo!
Having already secured promotion and the title, Theo Bair and HamKam finished their 2021 season on a high note today, beating Grorud 2-1— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) November 27, 2021
Bair scored the 1st of 2 goals, his 4th of the year
Here it is. Lovely turn and finish#VWFC bound in 22?#CanMNTpic.twitter.com/rJo4aVodH8
Marc dos Santos has some nice (and interesting) things to say on Ryan Gauld
CONCACAF will play the Oceania qualifier in the WCQ playoffs (presumably New Zealand)
The Canadian Women’s National Team fell to Mexico 2-1 in a friendly Saturday