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Peru's "macho football" offers UEFA with alternative Euro thinking

By Brian Homewood

NICE (Reuters) - It is a very long way from the state-of-the-art Euro 2016 arenas in France to the down-to-earth world of the Peruvian Cup.

But a tournament known as "macho football" with its improvised pitches and ground invasions by cattle offers the European championship with a possible solution to its current format which some supporters think is cumbersome.

The Peruvian Cup (Copa Peru) features more than 20,000 teams, representing every district in the country from the Amazon rain forest to the bleakest Andean plateaus, and, incredibly, offers the winner a place in the country's first division.

In the preliminary stages, village squares are often used as improvised pitches and in one game last year in the Madre de Dios region, players fled from the field after it was invaded by a herd of rampaging cattle.

Last month, Real Jorge Leiva thrashed Juvenil Llacanora 26-1 while a match in the Talara province had to be called off because one of the teams were too drunk to play.

Yet, in one sense at least, the Copa Peru can claim to be a step ahead of Euro 2016.

While UEFA baffles supporters with a format that eliminates only eight teams out of 24 in the group stage, the Copa Peru uses an innovative system which, according to its designer Leandro Shara, increases uncertainty and encourages teams to play for the win.

Shara, a Chilean mathematician who has set up a company called Matchvision to promote his system, suggests dispensing with groups altogether and having a single league table for all teams involved -- but without every team having to play each other.

Using a 24-team Euro as an example, and assuming UEFA wanted each team to play three matches in the first stage, Shara said that they would be divided into three seeding pots according to rankings.

The teams would then be would drawn to play one team from each pot, including their own.

For example, Germany could play Italy, Croatia and Iceland, while Italy could play Germany, Sweden and Northern Ireland. The teams with the most points in the league table would go into the knockout stage.

Shara said the system is entirely flexible. For example, if UEFA wanted to eliminate the round of 16, it could simply rule that the top eight teams would go into the quarter-finals

If tournament organisers wanted teams to play four matches in the first round instead of three, that could be arranged simply by having four seeding pots, and so on.

Shara said his system would force teams to play for a win as it would be impossible for them to work out all the combinations of results.

This would also remove the need for matches to be played simultaneously and ensure clashes between top teams early in the competition.

"In the European championship, less than half of the teams have to win their last match to qualify," he said.

"In Group F, Portugal and Iceland could both qualify without winning a game and this is killing competition. There is no motivation to go out and win.”

He said there had been several cases in recent tournaments where the toss of a coin had to be used to decide who went through.

In the Copa Peru, the system is used in the so-called "national stage" featuring 50 teams. Each side plays six matches and the top eight qualify for the quarter-finals.

"After five match days, only three teams had been eliminated and nobody qualified," Shara said.

Shara said he had presented his system to UEFA but had the impression that "they are on automatic pilot."

"I wasn't good enough to show them benefits they could have, and they are satisfied with what they have got," he said.

(Writing by Brian Homewood. Editing by Adrian Warner)

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