Ocea­nia looks to Asia for World Cup

Weekend Witness - - Sport -

WELLINGTON — The Ocea­nia re­gion is back­ing a drive to com­bine its World Cup play-off path with the larger Asian Foot­ball Con­fed­er­a­tion (AFC), in or­der to se­cure five berths at fu­ture fi­nals for the re­gions, New Zealand Foot­ball said yes­ter­day.

The AFC is cur­rently al­lo­cated four au­to­matic qual­i­fy­ing slots, with the fifth-placed team go­ing into an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal play-off, while Ocea­nia (OFC) has no di­rect route to the fi­nals, only a sep­a­rate play-off berth for the re­gional cham­pi­ons.

Both re­gions suf­fered heavy de­feats in play-offs for the 2014 World Cup last week, with Ocea­nia cham­pi­ons New Zealand thrashed 9-3 by Mex­ico over two legs, while Jor­dan were beaten 5-0 on ag­gre­gate by Uruguay.

“We cer­tainly see merit in the win­ner of the Ocea­nia sec­tion of qual­i­fy­ing join­ing the Asian Con­fed­er­a­tion play-off struc­ture in some way,” New Zealand Foot­ball chair­per­son Frank van Hat­tum said yes­ter­day.

“It is an Ocea­nia Foot­ball-led ini­tia­tive with [OFC pres­i­dent] David Chung and [gen­eral sec­re­tary] Tai Ni­cholas head­ing dis­cus­sions, and we are sup­port­ive of their good work.

“We see that a path through Asia would be good for the Ocea­nia win­ner, as it could open up a high-qual­ity match sched­ule, while also be­ing a bet­ter fit for na­tions in both con­fed­er­a­tions in terms of the ge­og­ra­phy and lo­gis­tics of any play-off struc­ture lead­ing to a World Cup place.”

AFC pres­i­dent Sheikh Sal­man bin Ibrahim Al-Khal­ifa told re­porters ear­lier this week that the con­fed­er­a­tion is open to in­cor­po­rat­ing the half slot from the OFC in some way.

Van Hat­tum said NZF has been in­volved in talks with the OFC on the play-off path for sev­eral years, and is sup­port­ive of the dis­cus­sions with its Asian coun­ter­parts.

New Zealand as­sumed the man­tle as Ocea­nia heavy­weights when Aus­tralia switched to the AFC in 2006, and they have strug­gled to gar­ner mean­ing­ful high-level com­pe­ti­tion, which was ev­i­dent in their build-up ahead of the Mex­ico clash.

NZF were only able to cob­ble to­gether matches against two club sides, in Los An­ge­les and an in­ter­na­tional friendly against Trinidad and Tobago, im­me­di­ately prior to the two-legged tie against the Concacaf heavy­weights.

For­mer All Whites coach Ricki Herbert, af­ter he stepped down fol­low­ing the sec­ond-leg loss against Mex­ico, urged NZF and the OFC to con­tinue to lobby for a more mean­ing­ful path­way to the fi­nals, and he said he feels Asia is the fu­ture.

NZF has shied away from fol­low­ing Aus­tralia into the AFC be­cause of the path­ways the 11-strong Ocea­nia con­fed­er­a­tion has into Fifa youth tour­na­ments and the Olympics. Lo­cal pun­dits, how­ever, have sug­gested that NZF should lobby Fifa to al­low the Ocea­nia cham­pi­ons to en­ter the fi­nal round of Asian qual­i­fy­ing, some­thing that Al-Khal­ifa did not ap­pear to rule out ear­lier this week.

Any change in the qual­i­fi­ca­tion process for fu­ture tour­na­ments would re­quire Fifa rat­i­fi­ca­tion.

— Reuters.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.