Thursday, December 07, 2006
The Word from Zurich, Part 1
Most significant of all, of course, is the information pertinent to the forthcoming World Cup cycle. There are a number of surprises, some pleasant, some not boding quite so well.
In introducing the 2010 allocations, FIFA's press machine makes a statement that is both true and extremely misleading:
The allocation of places will be the same as for 2006, i.e. Europe: 13; Africa: 5; Asia and Oceania: 5 (4.5 + 0.5; play-off); South America and CONCACAF: 8 (4.5 + 3.5; play-off); hosts (South Africa): 1.
Yes, it's the same as 2006, numerically. But not in practical terms.
Europe's allocation of 14 was counted as thirteen qualifiers plus the German hosts (holders, of course, are denied automatic entry to the tournament, a mean-spirited and cynical initiative on FIFA's part which was designed to open up more places for the third world confederations).
It has been traditional in the past for host continents to have a slightly larger allocation than normal. But to pretend that Europe's "normal" allocation is 13, and that things have simply returned to quits with South Africa hosting the 2010 tournament, is utterly disingenuous.
Europe's allocation for 2002, let it be remembered, was effectively fourteen and a half places (champions France qualified automatically, admittedly). Out of those fourteen and a half, incidentally, nine progressed to the second round of the main competition. In 2006, it was ten out of fourteen who did so.
How can a confederation with that sort of record endure an effective loss of one and a half places?
In my series of posts on the possible allocations for 2010, I imagined that South America might be the unlucky bunch. However, they have managed to maintain their 4.5 allocation (which, incidentally, they fully deserve).
Then there's Africa.
Hosting rights for South Africa inevitably meant that the CAF would make some gains, despite their dismal showing in Germany. But they will now be allotted six places at the event - one and a half more than the South Americans. This, too, defies footballing logic.
However that, folks, is only the tip of the iceberg. Much more to come, including the bizarre case of the Oceania-Asia "semi-merger".
Extremely bizzare to give Africa that many spots...
The cynic in me (and he's growing bigger by the day) wonders if the rankings were fixed, with Africa's imminent allocation in mind?
A slightly weakend World Cup is good for Australia but in reality this will make for a worse World Cup.
IMHO Africa has enough nations competing and enough cream at the top to justify those positions they have. Sure there's massive vote corruption going on but there's also still development to look after. Everyone here knows its not just about confederation strength.
I look back to the days when the football world looked at the nations outside the 2 big continents and scoffed. As much as I despise Jack Warner, the freebie spot offered and won by T&T was good for them and those that followed them in the tournament. If you can expose a few new nations to the tournament each iteration, they gradually build strength once they realise what it takes to compete (and those players hopefully filter back home.)
A bit altruistic and perhaps doesn't work in practise but I'm sticking to it.
Funnily enough I was thinking about them in terms of this. I would be the first to say that Central American should lose at least one spot (if not one and a half) however I found each of the T&T games to be amazing. The two games I saw (live at the games) vs. Sweden and vs. Paraguay were two of the greatest sports experiences I have had.
Also a few of the European teams did not exactly pull their weight at the tournament. But that can also be said of some of the teams of each confederation. The only confederation that had all their teams performing well were Oceania ;)
But I guess that is part of the joy of a World Cup not knowing who is going to step up.
If African nations under perform on 2010 you might see a couple of spots finally being pulled off them. However in theory perhaps an African nation would be stronger at an African world cup than the Asian teams at Korea/Japan 2002.
Don't think so at all. It's only half of the competition.
"IMHO Africa has enough nations competing and enough cream at the top to justify those positions they have. Sure there's massive vote corruption going on but there's also still development to look after."
Two problems in that statement:
1) The 'cream at the top', due to the administrative mess throughout African football, doesn't rise to the top as often as it should.
2) I don't see how handing out more WC places assists development. Very simplistic statement IMO. If extra WC places do assist development, then why has Africa had exactly the same WC results (one round-of-16 or quarter-final team and the rest eliminated in the group stage) since 1990, when they had only two WC teams?
As it stands, the same/increased allocation (depending on how you view the host spot) sends the message to Africa that they're doing OK. They're not.
"Everyone here knows its not just about confederation strength."
So what? It should be.
That was certainly the case for the 2006 cycle, but I think in the past it's been more that the cream tends to get soft (if you'll pardon the pun) come the business end of the WC group stages. Case in point being Cameroon going to pieces with 11 v. 10 against the Germans in 2002.
....2) I don't see how handing out more WC places assists development. Very simplistic statement IMO....
Couldn't agree more.
...best independent football analyst in Oz...
Me and my big mouth. ;-)
I don't want to watch the Euro champs every 2 years, logically a World Cup with more than half the teams from one area (regardless of the fact we can see these teams are good) ain't really much of a World Cup.
To me its not about the results achieved either. We want to see some good football and some varied attitudes to it right? I don't really want to watch another ground out dullfest in the knockout stages in 4 years - that says plenty about the meaning of results for me. The best teams aren't serving up the best football at the minute, not to say that the others are.
I know Africa has been a bit shit relative to its promise but there are valid reasons for it including exploitation, disorganisation and internal corruption - but the tourney means a hell of a lot to those nations that made it, AFAIC that's a boost to development of the game. Its fuzzy and ill-defined. But did Angola really do any worse in actuality than say Serbia? Its subjective to pick them out but there you have it. I don't think you can grudge Africa this charity spot in a once in a lifetime tournament nearby, as long as the situation is rectified next time.
I'm sure I've just soaked up too much FIFA goodwill PR. Either that or I'm just a bit too cynical and want to see more nations coming into contention in the future so there's still some real uncertainty in the draw.
Thanks for confirming. Out of interest, what's the attitude of the players towards it?