Venerable governing body UEFA have admitted today that the imbalanced, 24-team structure has led to unfair scheduling in the competition, a fact that the exhausted Irish bodies strewn across the Stade de Lyon on Sunday knew only too well. Ireland came into the game on Sunday having played against Italy the previous Wednesday night. Compare that to France, who had fully six days rest since their final group game against Switzerland.
UEFA's acting General Secretary Theodore Theodoridis spoke on the record to Reuters about the competition's structure and admitted it contained deficiencies, citing Ireland's lack of preparation for the French game as an example:
At the end of the day you have eight more countries that have strongly helped develop football in their countries. You've raised the competitiveness and raised the possibilities for people to dream.
But the 16-team format was simpler. There were cases like that of Albania, who had to wait three days to know if they had qualified for the last 16, there was also the difference in recovery time of three days between France and Republic of Ireland.
While we will admit that UEFA did us quite a favour expanding the competition (it meant we could qualify), they certainly did not help us out in the arena of scheduling. Elsewhere in the same interview, Theodoridis confirmed he would not be running for election to become UEFA's next president.
It's a pity, his name would have placed highly among the list of Brilliantly Named Sports' Administrators, alongside Arsenal's Sir Chips Keswick, Tokyo Sexwale, Dick Pound and our own Ruud Dokter. He would have been a kind of administrative Neville Neville.