BERNE - FIFA will make one of its most
politically sensitive decisions next week when football's
governing body decides how many places each continent will get
at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
With South America hoping for an extra spot, CONCACAF
demanding a fourth guaranteed place and Asia refusing to settle
for anything less than the four-and-a-half berths it had in
2010, the stage is set for a heated two-day session when its
executive committee meets in Zurich on March 2-3.
The continental confederations have been jockeying for
position ahead of the decision on the 31 available World Cup
places, Brazil qualifying automatically as hosts.
Asia Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohamed Bin
Hammam said last month that his region wanted at least the
four-and-a-half places it had in South Africa.
Australia, North Korea, South Korea and Japan represented
Asia in 2010 while Bahrain lost in a play-off to New Zealand,
winners of the Oceania qualifying tournament.
Jack Warner, president of the CONCACAF confederation
representing North and Central America and the Caribbean, has
said his region wants its quota increased to four direct places.
CONCACAF had three guaranteed spots in South Africa last
year and Costa Rica lost to Uruguay in a play-off for another
"We believe that CONCACAF deserves another full place at the
World Cup finals due to the performances of our teams on the
field and the actions of our confederation off it," said Warner.
"We are unified in our efforts to make this happen."
South America is hoping that hosts Brazil will not be
included in their quota of four-and-a-half places for 2014,
effectively giving the 10-team continent an extra place.
Africa had six teams at the 2010 World Cup including hosts
South Africa and look almost certain to lose one slot,
especially as five of their teams fell at the first hurdle last
Europe had 13 teams at the 2010 World Cup, of which seven
were eliminated in the group stage and two made it to the final,
while Oceania had half a place.
The subject has always been a thorny one and erupted in 2003
when FIFA back-tracked on a promise to give an automatic spot to
Oceania, which at the time included Australia.
The Oceania delegation stormed out of the meeting when
FIFA's executive committee decided to keep the system under
which the top Oceania team would face the fifth-placed South
Oceania later won the argument on the field when Australia
beat Uruguay in a play-off for a place at the 2006 World Cup.
Australia's subsequent move to the Asian confederation
scuppered Oceania's hopes for a direct place although the
region's winners last time faced the easier task of playing
Asia's fifth team, rather than South America's, in a two-leg
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