South America media ridicule FIFA World Cup decision

Date Published: 
Jamaica Gleaner

RIO DE JANEIRO, (Reuters):

SOUTH AMERICAN media yesterday ridiculed FIFA's decision to reduce the continent's number of World Cup places saying political and commercial interests had been put before footballing ones.

FIFA on Tuesday trimmed South America's World Cup quota from four-and-a-half places — meaning that four teams qualify directly and a fifth plays off against a team from another continent — to only four as part of a shake-up made to allow Oceania a direct place at the finals for the first time.

"FIFA punishes South America to look for new markets," ran a headline in the Ecuadorean daily El Comercio.

"It's incredible for a continent that has won nine of the 17 World Cups," said Buenos Aires daily La Nacion.

"It's more convenient to embrace the presence of South Korea, China, Japan, Australia, countries with no footballing language but with a very infuencial commercial impact," it added.

The Argentine sports daily Ole protested: "Uruguay, Colombia and Paraguay will have more difficulties in qualifying for the World Cup than Iraq and Trinidad and Tobago.

"China and Saudi Arabia were the worst teams at the last World Cup yet Asia has been benefited.

"It's obvious that the quantity of votes of the FIFA Congress, which elects the president, has a great influence. South America has only 10; Asia 45, CONCACAF 35 and Africa 52," Ole said.

Clarin, another Buenos Aires-based newspaper, said: "To cap it all, the new regulations determine that starting from these qualifiers, the defending champions must fight for their place at the World Cup.

"And the defending champions are non other than . . . Brazil."

It added: "Now (Oceania) will have a certain place and will not have to go into a play-off, where historically they have never done at all well.

"It's worth remembering that Scotland eliminated them (the Oceania representative) to go to Mexico; Argentina knocked them out on the way to 1994; Iran on the route to France 98; and Uruguay . . . on the way to Japan/South Korea 2002."