Glenn Moore: Minnows given a bite at big time by Uefa sharking for votes

That 70,000 people will tonight attempt to reach Wembley, despite the Tube strike, is an astonishing testament to the combined pulling power of Fabio Capello's revived team, and the aura of the new stadium. Because very few spectators will be there to watch England's opponents, and no one will turn up expecting to see a contest.

Andorra are very, very poor. They rank 196th out of 202 in the world with only San Marino below them in Europe. They have lost 55 of their 58 competitive matches, the exceptions being a draw with Finland, and a draw and victory against Macedonia, all during the World Cup 2006 qualifying campaign. It proved a false dawn. They finished bottom of the group and have lost their 20 subsequent competitive matches.

Which prompts the question, at a time when the workload of leading internationals is constantly criticised, why are England playing Andorra? Why is there not a preliminary qualifying round to winnow out the no-hopers leaving those minnows capable of the odd shock, as when Northern Ireland beat England? Their inclusion may seem romantic, but it is not when a key element of their defence is kicking opponents.

As so often the answer is politics. Uefa and Fifa, the game's governing bodies in Europe and the world respectively, are one-nation, one-vote democracies. Admirable in a way, but also ludicrous. Montserrat, who last played a match in March 2008 – a 7-1 home defeat to Surinam – carry as much influence as Brazil, the five-time World Cup winners, whose population is 42,000 times as large.

There are two significant consequences of this. It is in Uefa's interest to sanction international playing rights for Andorra and San Marino, as that gives Uefa two more votes. It also means anyone aspiring to hold office in Uefa needs to consider those nations' interests. Indeed, the current president of Uefa, Michel Platini, actively sought the votes of weaker football nations by advocating greater access for their clubs to the group stages of the Champions League, an election pledge he partly delivers next season. Suggesting those nations, who generate huge income when they get drawn against countries such as England – primarily in television rights, but also gate money and sponsorship – should pre-qualify would be a vote-loser. And the Football Association, seeking support for the 2018 World Cup bid,is not about to suggest it.

Qualifying groups have long included weak nations. England beat Luxembourg 9-0 in 1960, and again in 1982. They won 8-0 in Istanbul in 1984, and repeated the score when Turkey came to Wembley three years later. Which highlights the only football argument against pre-qualifying. Luxembourg are still mediocre, but Turkey reached the 2002 World Cup semi-final. Their improvement was hastened by playing better sides.

The problem is there are now so many "European" nations, and not just because the region has stretched to Kazakhstan. Two decades ago Uefa had 33 members. Now, largely due to the break-up of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, it has 53. Among the newcomers are all five of England's current qualifying opponents, Andorra only being admitted to Uefa in 1996. Thirteen years later their inclusion remains very hard to justify.

Group Six: State of play

P/W/D/L/F/A/Pts

England 6/6/0/0/20/4/18

Croatia 6/3/2/1/12/6/11

Belarus 5/3/0/2/14/7/9

Ukraine 5/2/2/1/7/5/8

Kazakhstan 6/1/0/5/6/20/3

Andorra 6/0/0/6/2/19/0

A victory tonight would put England a win from qualification for next year's World Cup finals – something they would achieve by beating Croatia in September. A Kazakhstan win over Ukraine tonight, coupled with Belarus beating Croatia in August – however unlikely – would also see England qualify.

England's Results so far

6 Sep 2008: Andorra 0 England 2

10 Sep: Croatia 1 England 4

11 Oct: England 5 Kazakhstan 1

15 Oct: Belarus 1 England 3

1 Apr 2009: England 2 Ukraine 1

6 Jun: Kazakhstan 0 England 4

Remaining fixtures

Tonight: Andorra (h), 9 Sep Croatia (h), 10 Oct Ukraine (a), 14 Oct Belarus (h)

Andorra's three to watch

Koldo (FC Andorra) 38-year-old goalkeeper, 75 caps

Former Real Madrid youth product who played in Spain before coming back to Andorra last year to coach, yet remains first choice for the national team.

Ildefons Sola Lima (Triestina [Italy]) 29-year-old striker, 66 caps, 6 goals

Rated as their most talented player, a centre-back for his club, but a striker for his country. Tall and good in the air, Lima is Andorra's all-time top scorer with six.

Oscar Sonejee (Santa Coloma) 33-year-old defender, 84 caps, 2 goals

Andorra's most capped player, the insurance salesman is a combative midfielder, as shown by his battle with Wayne Rooney in a qualifier for Euro 2008.

News
people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?