Canada prepares for its 1st World Cup in 36 years
It’s been a pretty long and winding road to getting ready for the World Cup in Russia this summer. First, the organizing of the tournament was left in the hands of the FIFA executive committee. Then, in October, the committee made a controversial move to reduce the number of qualifiers to 24 teams, then reduced the number to 16 with what they described as “more time to review” and “more time to understand what is working.”
There were plenty of questions and concern about how the committee would approach the process leading up to the World Cup in a country with soccer’s two largest and most successful teams. The questions were complicated and involved a lot of back and forth between FIFA and Russia in regards to everything from the size of the city, to the amount of space for the stadiums and what that space would be called.
Then the tournament was set to begin with a two-stage qualifying process — a top-tier group with seven groups of three teams each, followed by a playoff stage where the top two teams advance. It was a process that many felt was not fair to national teams who had to play through lower pools for a chance to compete at FIFA’s biggest sporting event.
For the qualifying system to work, you basically had to have a system in place to determine the qualifiers and then only have the playoff to determine the final participants. And, because the qualifying system was a lot less than 24 teams, they had to be reduced to some number — it was 16 for the first round of the knockout stage. In the end, FIFA made an adjustment and decided to reduce the number of qualifiers to 16, then to 14 for the playoff.
It was a big change in what was expected to be a very competitive tournament but one that the Russians embraced with great joy. They said right from the beginning that this was going to be a true test of skill and the will of the teams to win. They were confident it would be an exciting tournament and hoped as many teams would do well in the tournament as possible. They