As we enter the final week of World Cup qualification in Europe FIFA have decided to seed the teams for next weeks play off draw. Just to be clear, the World Cup qualifiers began 18 months ago and with 180 minutes of play left FIFA have changed things. Why this disgusting, and yes that is the right word, change? Simply – FIFA have misplaced there morals.
The understanding 18 months ago was that the 9 group winners in Europe would be on their way to South Africa and the best 8 runners up, one would miss out, would compete in a play off for the remaining 4 places. Those 8 teams would be part of an open draw, meaning they all go into a pot, and any one can be drawn against anyone. Fair, right? But in the 18 months since the qualifying began things have not worked out quite as FIFA had hoped.
Three teams have sealed their places at next years World Cup with England, Spain and Holland giving themselves games to spare and topping their groups comfortably. Of the rest, Italy, the current holders, need a point from their two games to qualify, and Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Slovakia and Serbia sit top of their respective groups. The problem that FIFA has with this is France, Portugal and Greece haven’t read the scripts they were issued and don’t top their groups. In fact Portugal is 3rd in their group, 2 points behind 2nd placed Sweden.
What FIFA are hoping is that France, Portugal and Greece all manage to sneak into the play offs and then, because of the new seeding system, they won’t be drawn against each other, giving them an easier passage through. The seeds will be based on the FIFA rankings, with the top 4 of the 8 in one pot, and the bottom 4 in the next. FIFA are looking out for the big boys.
The likes of Ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Slovenia have just effectively been punched in the gut by FIFA. The fairness has been taken out of the draw and the odds stacked very heavily in favour of the likes of France. It must be remembered that the initial group draws were based on FIFA rankings and thus seeding. This means that France, Portugal and Greece were given favourable draws and were expected to top their groups. Ireland, Bosnia and Slovenia, and Latvia, who still have a chance of dropping Greece out of the playoff draw, have had to overcome difficult odds to get to within touching distance of the playoffs. To have FIFA make this change so late in the game is truly disgusting.
There is already a chance that Argentina may not make it to South Africa, and so Lio Messi may not be at FIFA’s show piece event. With Portugal hoping to sneak into the playoffs after a disappointing qualification performance FIFA could not take the chance of Christiano Ronaldo not being in South Africa. The best players, the best teams all mean higher ratings and viewers for the World Cup, which means more money for FIFA. And those who put money into the game to make money from the game, the sponsors, need to have their players on board too.
FIFA’s morally blurred vision is not, as they claim, for the good of the game. Disgusting is not too strong a word.