It`s the Euro 2004 semifinals and England, France, Italy, Spain and Germany are nowhere to be found except on the beach or on the golf course. Why is that you ask? Well, first of all, Portugal, Holland, Greece and the Czech Republic have been better than them in this tournament. But there`s more to it that just that.
Forget crooked referees, bad pitches, luck and a bunch of other crap. There is one factor that is always overlooked when it comes to the big 5 leagues in Europe. It`s called fatigue. Mind you that a large majority of the players on the remaining teams don`t play within their own borders, but here are the numbers to break it down:
Portugal: 16 @ home, 7 in the Big 5 Leagues
Holland: 6 @ home, 15 in the Big 5 Leagues, 2 in other leagues
Greece 16 @ home, 7 in the Big 5 Leagues, 1 in other leagues
Czech Republic 5 @ home, 13 in the Big 5 Leagues, 5 in other leagues
Now compare that with Germany, France, Italy, Spain and England where all 23 players on the rosters play in the Big 5 Leagues.
We all know that the wear and tear on a player is absolutelly brutal in the Premiership because of the style of play as well as the number of games. Teams play 38 league games in England (add about 10 more on average for European games as well as FA cup and league cup). Bundesliga and Serie A teams play 34 league games while Spain and France come in at 38 league games each.
Portugal and Holland come in at 34 games, while Greece and the Czech Republic come in at 30 games each.
I believe UEFA`s proposal to restrict each top league to 16 teams should be welcomed and appreciated. It will reduce the wear and tear on the players. Each individual game will mean more to each team. Rosters will not have to be as deep as before, thus we will see the best players play more minutes on a per game average. Also, team payrolls will go down as they won`t have to carry as many players on their roster for the entire season. The players will get more rest in between games as less rounds will be played in midweek and their winter and summer breaks will expand some.
With that in mind, we will be able to see players play at their peak in big tournaments such as the World Cup or the Euro Championships. Nobody wants to see a tired Zidane or an invisible Vieri. We want to see these players at their peak when it comes to the best tournaments in the world.