Today, we are more worried about the future, according to our faltering UEFA index …
1. Belgium was 3rd European nation in 1979 and 20th in 1998
Access to European competitions is governed by the UEFA index, calculated on the results of clubs over five consecutive seasons. The best ranking of Belgium is the 3rd place occupied in 1979 and 1980. This allowed us, according to the rules in force at the time, to have… six European clubs during the years 1980-1981 and 1981-1982! In contrast, the worst ranking in our country was 20th place in 1998. The recovery was slow, until 14th place in 2009, the date of the creation of the Playoffs which were to pull our football up. Contract fulfilled with the 13th place reached in 2011, the 12th in 2012, the 11th in 2013, the 10th in 2014, the 9th in 2016, the 8th in 2019 and the 9th in 2020.
2. Two clubs will spend the winter warm: that’s fine, nothing more
This season, of the five initial participants (Standard, SC Charleroi, La Gantoise, FC Bruges and Antwerp), only the last two will spend the winter in the warmth, and the spring on the continental scene.
It’s the same as the two previous seasons, better than in 2017-2018 (zero!) And worse than in 2016-2017 when Anderlecht and Genk reached the quarter-finals of the Europa League, and La Gantoise the eighth. ! Regarding the Walloon clubs, the last to have spent the winter is the Standard of… Roland Duchâtelet and José Riga, eliminated by Hanover, in 2011-2012, in the round of 16 of the Europa League.
It will also be recalled that the last Belgian club to have left the group stage of the Champions League is the Ghentoise of… Hein Vanhaezebrouck, who was eliminated in the round of 16 by Wolfsburg in 2015-2016. For Brugge, this time, it was a few centimeters short, with this shot that De Ketelaere will see, until the end of his days, crashing on the crossbar of the goal of Lazio …
3. Our place in the Champions League is in danger!
The UEFA index, of which you will be spared the complicated calculation method (roughly, 2 points for a victory, 1 point for a draw plus bonus points for each qualification) is therefore essential. And the collective performance is important because, from start to finish, the total of the points collected is divided by the number of clubs involved at the start (therefore divided by five in the case of Belgium, even if we only have two clubs left. in contention).
The current cycle (from 2016 to 2021) will determine the places for the European Cups 2022-2023. There, Belgium (36.300 points) is still 9th behind the Netherlands (36.800) but is under threat from Austria (35.825), Scotland (32.125) and Ukraine (31.700). Austria has only one qualifier (Salzburg), just like Scotland (Rangers) while Ukraine has two (Donetsk and Kiev). But the points of Scotland and Ukraine will only be divided by four, the number of their clubs entered at the start. However, if Belgium slipped to 11th place, it would lose its direct access to the Champions League, our champion then playing the C1 play-offs and the vice-champion entering the second preliminary round. The risk seems limited but it exists.
4. For 2023-2024, things are off to a bad start!
This risk of falling beyond 10th place, and therefore losing direct access to the C1, is enormous, however, for the 2017-2022 cycle which will distribute tickets for the 2023-2024 European Cups. Indeed, we will then lose the benefit of the exceptional 2016-2017 season (see above).
If we make a projection for this ranking, over the four seasons already finished or started (2017-2021), Belgium (23,800 points) is … twelfth behind Ukraine (eleventh-26,200), the Netherlands (tenth -27,700), Scotland (ninth-27,750) and Austria (eighth-28,450). If Belgium does not go back to 10th place, the C1 risks being played without us. The journey through Bruges and Antwerp over the next few months will therefore be crucial for our medium-term future …
5. Next season: birth of the Conference League…
For the European season 2021-2022, at the end of our current championship, things are clear since it is the 2015-2020 UEFA index, where Belgium was 8th, which takes precedence. But there will be a big change with the creation of the Conference League, the “small” European Cup which will host, in particular, the 7th qualifier from Spain, England, Germany and Italy. , and the 6th qualifier from France.
For Belgium, the distribution of tickets will be as follows:
> The champion: Champions League pools (unchanged).
> The vice-champion: 3rd preliminary round of the Champions League, groups of the Europa League in case of failure (unchanged).
> The winner of the Cup: 4th preliminary round (playoffs) of the Europa League (instead of the pools). In case of victory, he goes to the pools of the Europa League. In case of defeat, he is demoted to the Conference League group
> The 4th qualified club: 3rd preliminary round of the Conference League.
> The 5th qualified club: 2nd preliminary round of the Conference League.
It is therefore possible that next season we will not have a group club in the Europa League (against three this season). But the Conference League, less relieved, will perhaps be the opportunity to go much further in this European Cup for the poor …