Footballers are at breaking point – that is the message that has been repeated loud and clear during an international break which has seen 20 players that are key for their sides across the top five leagues go down with injuries of varying degrees of seriousness. There is a small piece of respite around the corner though.
The likes of Gavi, Vedat Muriqi, Vinicius Junior, Eduardo Camavinga, Lucas Ocampos, Mikel Oyarzabal, Marc-Andre ter Stegen are all headed back to their clubs with fitness issues. In the previous international break, Neymar Junior, Dani Olmo and Marco Asensio all suffered problems too.
The demands on footballers continue to increase with clubs and countries playing as often as possible in order to extract as much money as possible. At this point, it seems obvious that the impact is never watching the best footballers all playing at the same time.
As per Diario AS, FIFA are set to reduce the amount of matches that will be required to qualify for the World Cup. From 2024, when qualifying starts for the 2026 tournament, the number of games will be reduced by two or four games for the majority of sides. Instead of groups of five and six, Europe will play 12 groups of four and five, with it being possible to qualify in just six matches from there on out.
The result is that the winners of the groups will go into the World Cup, with the runners-up and the four best-placed sides from the Nations League meeting each other in a play-off. Eight teams will qualify via that route to give Europe 20 teams.
Hopefully this should reduce the demands on players, but it is hard not to look at this somewhat cynically. The change comes with FIFA’s expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams. Meanwhile the Champions League is set to add four more games to the calendar next year, and FIFA intends to expand the Club World Cup to 32 teams, featuring at least four European teams. It appears that for the top players, the overall load of games will continue to increase.
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