Wednesday, July 12, 2006

 

Places at the Table, Part 2

Certain changes in the allocation of places for the 2010 World Cup will undoubtedly be necessary, partly as a result of Africa enjoying hosting rights. The now-traditional five places for Africa might become five and a half or even six, given that it would be somehwat unfair to expect all of the Africans bar South Africa to play off for only four spots. The confederation includes such seasoned competitors as Cameroon, Nigeria and Tunisia, as well as currently impressive sides such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Not to mention Senegal, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria and Mali, all of whom are quite capable of giving any mid-ranking European side a fair shake.

The Asian confederation pulled off a very neat trick as a result of South Korea's success in 2002, wangling four and a half places out of FIFA for 2006. This despite the fact that they recieved only three and a half spots in 1998, and that the two Asian nations who lacked the benefit of home support in 2002 flopped embarrassingly. A real political coup for Mohammed bin Hammam.

Asia can consider itself very lucky that the ersatz Asian team at the tournament, Australia, made it past the first round this time. Otherwise, Asia's collective performance at the event was dismal, and the fact that the usual suspects qualify from Asia with monotonous regularity and yet fail to convince at the finals must surely be setting some alarm bells ringing in Zurich. Nonetheless, it is hard to see Asia losing any ground for 2010. Unfortunately for Australia, it's hard to see the AFC gaining any ground either. Four and a half is likely to be the limit once more, despite the addition of Australia.

What, then, of Oceania? It is now a pathetic shell of a confederation with a half-spot it scarcely deserves. The remaining "half-spot" confederations, one suspects, will be queuing up to knock over the Oceania champion in late 2009. It's quite possible that FIFA, in order to avoid any bad blood, might finally have to consider the option of a cross-confederation repechage tournament on neutral territory, for the playoff orphans. The playoff ties in 2005 were a patent absurdity, Australia facing Uruguay while Bahrain played Trinidad and Tobago. Either of the former two teams would almost certainly have butchered either of the latter in a playoff. Hence, probably, the lack of a repechage tournament for the cycle just finished: the Asians and CONCACAF, both of whose supremos wield considerable influence within FIFA, would never have countenanced it.

CONCACAF does not deserve its three and a half places, but the influence of its bully-in-chief Jack Warner, not to mention the necessity of ensuring that the U.S. qualifies, will probably ensure that it keeps them. As with Asia, the same teams routinely emerge from the CONCACAF qualifiers every time.

And so to the big guns: South America and Europe. To be dealt with in my next instalment.

Comments:
I think New Zealand would go well against the part-qualifier from both CONCACAF and Asia, and maybe even the lower direct qualifiers from those confederations. They'd give a good shake to the 5th placed South American team too, so long as it's not Uruguay. Recall that Uruguay started it's qualifying poorly, and really picked up towards the end. Mikey, I know you rated both Ecuador and Paraguay before the World Cup, but I reckon after their performances Uruguay would have been the 3rd best S.American team.

I think CONCACAF should have 2 spots (or perhaps 2.5). Just bite the bullet and give the US automatic entry, and let the other countries fight it out with Mexico to grab the remaining spot.
 
...I think New Zealand would go well against the part-qualifier from both CONCACAF and Asia, and maybe even the lower direct qualifiers from those confederations. They'd give a good shake to the 5th placed South American team too, so long as it's not Uruguay. Recall that Uruguay started it's qualifying poorly, and really picked up towards the end. Mikey, I know you rated both Ecuador and Paraguay before the World Cup, but I reckon after their performances Uruguay would have been the 3rd best S.American team....

I'm not so sure about NZ being a threat, even at that pretty low level. We've beaten NZ by at least three clear goals in the last few WC playoffs, and I really don't think they've progressed much in the last few years. And there's the same problem for them that we had before joining Asia - no practice in competitive games against peer opposition.

...I think CONCACAF should have 2 spots (or perhaps 2.5). Just bite the bullet and give the US automatic entry, and let the other countries fight it out with Mexico to grab the remaining spot...

:-)

That would certainly make things easier for FIFA!
 
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