| KRAKOW, Poland, June 18
KRAKOW, Poland, June 18 Euro 2012 has again
highlighted the arithmetical gymnastics which teams, fans and
the media must sometimes perform to work out groups when head to
head records come into play but UEFA is sticking with the system
for the moment.
Sunday's final Group B games were a case in point where the
list of possible permutations stretched into eight paragraphs
and meant fans at Germany v Denmark and Portugal v Netherlands
had to repeatedly check the scenarios as every goal went in.
UEFA's official guidance for Group A included the following
line: "The Czechs could even afford to draw unless Greece beat
Russia by five goals or fewer."
Poland fan Sabina Kaminska said: "It is too difficult."
Overall goal difference is used in most European leagues to
split up teams on the same points but UEFA favours head to head
as the first differentiating factor.
If one team beats another and they finish the group on the
same points, it is not complicated. But when three teams end up
level, the scribbling of sums can be heard in the stadium press
boxes as mini-league goal difference is being worked out.
UEFA President Michel Platini backs head to heads which are
also used in the Champions League.
"For me it is correct and fair. If you have the same number
of points as a team and you beat that team, you have the
advantage," he told reporters on Monday.
The system certainly generates tension and Germany, despite
winning their first two matches at Euro 2012, were one goal away
from elimination for much of the second half in their final
group match against Denmark before Lars Bender's late goal sent
them sailing through with a perfect record.
Asked if the head to head rule had actually made the
tournament more exciting than complicated, Platini replied:
"Yes, if you are a neutral. And I am neutral.
"Perhaps the rules have to be better, we have to decide for
the future but until we do, you have to respect the rules of the
Italy is probably the nation to feel most aggrieved by head
to heads, even though Serie A is one domestic league that does
use the principle ahead of goal difference.
This causes problems during the season as teams have to play
each other twice and no one knows how a table should look if two
sides are level but have met only once, meaning league standings
often differ among newspapers and websites.
Italy have suffered from head-to-heads, though, most notably
when the 2-2 draw between Denmark and Sweden at Euro 2004 sent
both Scandinavian sides through and dumped out the Azzurri.
Italians suspected a fix but nothing was proved.
"Doubts have remained ever since. It is a bad scar," said
Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni, then Italy boss.
Italy have faced the same fear here after realising a 2-2
draw between Spain and Croatia would knock them out whatever
they do against the Irish.
"They should revisit the rules because when you arrive at
these situations, it always leaves doubt," Andrea Palmieri, from
the official Italian fans' embassy at the Euros, told Reuters.
"We are experts in maths thanks to this. In Italy we know
the possible combinations better than anyone."
Palmieri acknowledged that using goal difference might not
eradicate the chance of "arranged" matches.
Not all supporters are against head to heads.
Kevin Miles, part of the England fan's embassy in Ukraine,
said the Football Supporters' Federation did not have an
official line but he sees no problem with the current system.
"It's not that complicated," he told Reuters.
"People will always find something to complain about if the
result doesn't go their way.
"Once you've exhausted all the factors from three games,
which is not that much, you've got to do it with something.
Would you have a shootout?"
Penalties are indeed in the rules for when two teams who
play the last match and are the only sides level just cannot be
separated but the regulations also leave room for the UEFA
national team coefficient ranking system.
This rewards the bigger teams who did better in previous
tournaments and does not reflect the competition they are in.
At the bottom of the list of the possibilities is drawing
The Euro 1968 semi-final between Italy and Soviet Union was
decided by a coin toss following a 0-0 draw after extra time.
The Italians did not complain then and went on to win the
(Additional reporting by Justin Palmer and Julien Pretot;
Editing by Ed Osmond)