Champions League qualifiers may be better in May

Aug 23 2014, 20:54 IST
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SummaryOn the same day hosts Brazil were crushed 7-1 by Germany in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup...

On the same day hosts Brazil were crushed 7-1 by Germany in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup, another remarkable match took place almost unnoticed, thousands of kilometres away, in the Armenian capital Yerevan.

There, on an historic night for Andorran football, Eloy Casals, goalkeeper for the champions of the principality FC Santa Coloma, rifled in a 94th-minute effort to secure an away-goals win over Armenia's Banants in a Champions League first round qualifier.

Banants, 3-1 ahead in the second leg, looked set to qualify until Casals took advantage of confusion to send the Andorran amateurs through after the tie ended 3-3 on aggregate.

Casals joined the likes of Peter Schmeichel and Vincent Enyeama among the ranks of keepers who have scored in the competition.

Events in Belo Horizonte, understandably, overshadowed this remarkable act of giant-killing but helped to raise a question: why was European club football being played while the World Cup was building to a crescendo?

The Champions League is the pinnacle of club football and, for major European teams, qualifying for the group stages is a priority.

For the 22 teams who qualify directly, there is time to prepare.

Their club directors go to Monaco at the end of August for the draw for the group stages and their matches start in mid-September.

By then the new season is in full swing.

But those who are not direct qualifiers, including the champions of 40 'smaller' countries, face a battle in up to four rounds of preliminary matches in July and August.

For some clubs, this means they have barely started pre-season training when they play their most important matches of the year.

The losers face a full season ahead knowing they have already missed out on their main target.

Austrian side Salzburg are a classic case.

Ever since the Red Bull energy drink manufacturer took over the club in 2005, their stated aim has been to qualify for the Champions League group stages.

They have taken part six times in the qualifiers without success.

As winning the league is seen as an obligation, this means they have little to look forward to after being eliminated.

Some countries, like Austria and Switzerland, start their seasons in mid-July to give their teams an improved chance in the qualifiers.

Last year that led to the incongruous sight of hydration breaks in the Austrian Bundesliga when it kicked off in a July heatwave.

This season's Swiss league started a week after the World Cup final.

Italy's Serie A, on

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