In recent times it has become fashionable to call for Europe's least gifted national sides to compete in a pre-qualification phase for major tournaments to prevent a pile-up of pointless contests.
Rise in support for pre-qualification
The road to any World Cup or European Championship is a long and dull one. The qualification process is an arduous and uninspiring string of half-arsed contests between mismatched sides until the same bunch of teams prevail. Occasionally an unexpected side book a place at a major event only to crash out early while everyone bitches about the absence of a 'bigger' country.
During qualification, top-seeds like England, Italy, Germany or Spain will have to contend with at least one tiny little nation like Andorra, the Faroe Islands or San Marino. These awful, awful teams embark on a miserable process of damage limitation, with the score-line ranging from between 3-0 and 10-0.
While it is admirable that these desperately inadequate nations are given a chance to compete with the best, these tedious, one-sided encounters erode any lingering excitement in the qualification process and merely serve as cliché-fests for the likes of Peter Drury and Andy Townsend.
Following England's 6-0 evisceration of an execrable Andorra side playing a 9-1-0 formation in June 2009, there were renewed calls in the media for a 'pre-qualification phase' to keep the runts of football's litter away from nations with an actual chance of making it to a competition.
Problems with pre-qualification
While 'pre-qualification' is a fairly logical idea, it became a tedious buzzword for hack journalists, taxi drivers, Chris Moyles and anyone else trying to sound knowledgeable.
The system would also realistically prevent the minnows from any improvement. As FIFA stated when vetoing the proposal in 1996, 'we fear that the dogshit nations would become still more pungently rancid and their vain attempts to produce a meaningful contest would embarrass us all.'