Archive for June, 2008

The World Cup 2010 Timeline.

Friday, June 13th, 2008

FIFA made an initial announcement that 204 out of its 208 members had entered their names to compete in the 2010 World Cup. While the draw for the qualifying competition is scheduled for 25th November 2007, some of the Confederations are playing prelimary matches in order to cut the numbers in that draw. Comnebol – the South American Confederation do not have a draw, as all ten teams from the continent play in a standard league format (18 matches each), but this has too start early – on October 13 2007.

The initial announcement meant that the Phillipines, Laos and Brunei were not entered, along with Bhutan – all from Asia. Oddly, when the preliminary draws were released, Bhutan were included (not that this meant much).

One of the points of this Timeline is to record how the numbers were whittled down from this original 205 entrants, to 32 finalists over a period just exceeding two years. The date when each of the 173 that fail to qualify will be recorded, using mathematical certainies, (i.e not the teams last game, but the when the team cann no longer get enough points to reach the next stage). Other important items such as a team qualifying for the next stage will also be recorded.

The record will be kept as a single file – I will delete from the archive each time it is updated and returned to the top of the blog.

Qualifying Formats
Each of the confederations has a different format for its qualification process, decided by the local confederation with the agreement of FIFA. the process ends with two intercontinental play-offs, one between teams from Oceania and Asia, the other between teams from North/Central, and South America.

Oceania
This is agreed to be the weakest confederation. It has 11 members since Australia defected to Asia. The winner of the OFC contest will play in the play-off against an Asian team.

Initially nine of the contenders (Papua New Guinea withdrawing before the start) will play in Samoa as part of the South Pacific Games – this produces three teams for the next stage where they are joined by New Zealand and play in the traditional four team group format, home and away matches.

The top two teams in the group will play a further two-legged match between themselves before the winner gets to play against their Asian opponent.

Asia
Of 46 teams, 43 enter the preliminary draw. A ranking table was drawn up to place them in order. Teams 1 through 5 on the ranking order (Australia, South Korea, Saudia Arabia, Japan and Iran – who not coincidentally played in the last World Cup finals) are exempt to the first group stage. The other 38 are divided into 19 seeds, and 19 non-seeds, and drawn into 19 first round matches. Of the 19 qualifyers, the 11 with the best ranking will go direct to the third round, while the other 8 will play in another four games to reduce the numbers further.

The 20 teams in the group stage will play in four groups of five.
Winners and runners-up will qualify, giving 10 teams then to play in two groups of five.

From the second group stage, the top two in each group head to the World Cup
– the two third placed teams play off with the winner being the Asian team to play against the Oceania qualifyer in the play-off.

South America
The simplest of all the routes – 10 teams play in a home and away round robin tournament (18 matches each). the top four are direct qualifyers for the finals, while the fifth placed team will face North or Central American opposition in a play-off.

North and Central America
35 teams – two (2 legged) knock out rounds will reduce the numbers from 35 to 12. All the teams have to play at least one tie, the top 13 on the rankings are exempt from Round 1.

The twelve teams play in three groups of four
Winners and runners-up qualify for a further group stage – a single group of six teams
The top three from the second stage go directly to the World Cup, the fourth team into a play-off against a South American.

Africa
53 nations – An added complication is that the same tournament is used to decide qualification for the African Cup of Nations in January 2010. this means that South Africa will be the first host country to play in the qualification process – but they will be in the finals, whatever the results.

Five teams will be knocked out in a preliminary knock out stage
The remaining 48 will be arranged in 12 groups of four.
All 12 winners go into the next stage, plus the eight ‘best’ runners-up.

This produces 20 teams which will be made up into 5 groups of four.
The group winners only qualify for the finals

-In the first group stage, matches against South Africa count in deciding who goes through.
-If South Africa makes it to the final 20, then their group will be a three team group for World Cup Qualifying (matches against South Africa will not count), but it will remain as a four team group for African cup qualification.

Europe
53 countries. To be arranged in nine groups, eight will have six teams, while the final one will have just five.

All nine winners qualify
Only eight runners up move on – they play in four knock out play-off matches to complete the 13 European country line up.

The Time Line

25-August-2007The first world cup qualification matches get underway, at the appropraitely named J.S. Blatter Playing Fields in Apia, Samoa. The matches start simultaneously at 15.00 local time, with two more later in the evening. The results of the first two matches are Tahiti 0-1 New Caledonia and Solomon Islands 12-1 American Samoa. Ten teams are arranged in two groups of five teams. Included in the competition is Tuvalu who are not a FIFA member and cannot go beyond this tournament, (they will gain only one point, from a draw with Tahiti, so this is not important). Not included are Papua New Guinea, who by chosing not to compete become the first withdrawal.

25 – August-2007 (or before). Papua New Guinea withdraw. 204 teams left!

31-August-2007. American Samoa eliminated 203 teams left
By losing their first three matches, one goal scored, 34 conceded – American Samoa are the first team eliminated. They will lose their fourth game by 4-0.

1-September-2007. Cook Islands and Tahiti eliminated201 teams left
Both teams are in Group A of the South Pacific games.

3-September-2007. Samoa and Tonga eliminated199 teams left
Two teams from Group B, including the host of these games, make their exit.

5-September-2007. New Caledonia and Fiji reached Oceania group stage
The two teams, both from Group A beat the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu repectively to reach the South Pacific final and the enter the next round of the World Cup

6-September-2007. São Tomé e Príncipe and the Central African Republic from Africa and Guam from Asia withdraw 196 teams left
The two African teams were due to meet each other, resulting in a reshuffle of the African knock out round – Swaziland and The Seychelles are given byes to the first group stage. Dijibouti and Somalia now meet each other, but in a single match in Dijibouti.
Indonesia are the team drawn against Guam, so they now have a bye and will wait to see if they have to play Round 2.

7-September-2007. Vanuatu progress, Solomon Islands eliminated195 teams left.
Vanuatu beat Solomon Islands 2-0 in the South Pacific third/fourth play-off
New Caledonia, who finished group A behind Fiji on goal difference, beat Fiji by 1-0 to claim the local title.

15-September-2007. Bhutan withdraw194 teams left
In a less than surprising development, Bhutan decide to withdraw, Kuwait are the lucky team to get a bye – and their seeding places them directly into the group stage in Asia.

8-October-2007.Asian Qualifying gets underway.
There are 17 two legged ties left after Guam and Bhutan had withdrawn, 8 take place on this date, the last one will be played on 22-October. All second legs are to be completed by the 28th

13-October-2007African Qualifying gets underway
Madagascar beats Comoros 6-2 – second leg next month

13-October-2007South American Qualifying gets underway
Five matches this weekemd, five more in midweek, another two rounds of games in November.

15-October-2007. Thailand progress. Macau eliminated193 teams left
Having won the first leg 6-1, the first tie to complete is a formality for Thailand, who end up as 13-2 aggregate winners.

26-October-2007. Afghanistan eliminated192 teams remain
Most of the matches are on Sunday, but as they are to use the same stadium as Tajikistan will use on Sunday (the security situation in Afghanistan not being such that even Syria want to play there), the Afghan match is two days earlier. 2-1 to Syria on the day, 5-1 on aggregate.

28-October-2007. 12 teams beaten in Asian second legs 180 teams remain

Iraq 0-0 Pakistan (aggregate 7-0)

Tajikistan 5-0 Bangladesh (6-1) – after a scoreless first half, a hat-trick by Khakimov made the difference

Nepal 0-2 Oman (0-4)

Hong Kong 8-1 Timor-Leste (East Timor) (11-3) – seen by just 1500

Maldives 2-0 Yemen (2-3)

Myanmar 0-4 China (0-11) (played in Kuala Lumpur, and in the heat and humidity of mid-afternoon, where only 200 turned out to watch)

Chinese Taipai 0-2 Uzbekistan (0-11) – decided by two goals in the final 10 minutes, in front of under 1000

Turkmenistan 4-1 Cambodia (5-1) Cambodia scored first, levelling the agregate scores, but eventually losing

UAE 5-0 Vietnam (6-0)

Qatar 5-0 Sri Lanka (6-0)

Malaysia 0-0 Bahrain (1-4)

Jordan 2-0 Kyrgyzstan (2-2) pens 6-5 – the last of the matches, and the closest. A goal in each half levelled the aggregate score. Kyrgyzstan had a man sent off in injury time of extra time and then lost the penalty shoot out.

Three matches scheduled for this date seem to have not been played.
India v Lebanon is now scheduled for Monday 29th.
The match between North Korea and Mongolia was not completed – more news on this to follow when I find out something
Palestine did not turn up for the second leg in Singapore, after losing 4-0 at home.

29-October-2007 The end for Mongolia and Palestine 178 teams remain

More than 24 hours after the match should have completed, FIFA put a result of North Korea 5-1 Mongolia on their site. No details have been posted. this gives the Koreans a 9-2 aggregate victory, but leaves one thinking that the full story here has yet to come out.

In Singapore, it is more straight forward – the Palestine team did not attend. Singapore expect the result to be awarded at 3-0. The reason for Palestine not attending is not clear, but this is not a new thing for them. They missed a game (also in Singapore) in the last Asian Cup qulaification process.

The remaining unplayed game, in India was off due to a Waterlogged pitch and is now scheduled for 30-October.

30-October-2007 India pay the penalty for Red Card 177 teams remaining.
India were trying to come back from a 4-1 defeat in the Lebanon, and made a good start, leading 1-0 at half time. But the 72nd minute proved too much for them, with the Indian keeper getting sent off, while Mohamad Ghaddar scored from the penalty sport. Ghaddar scored againto put the Lebanon ahead, and a late Baichung Bhutia equaliser was never going to save the tie for the Indians

16-November-2007 Djibouti Score a narrow win 176 teams remaining
Ahead of the weekends other matches, which will see four Asian and two African second legs, Djibouti have beaten Somalia 1-0 to gain themselves a place in the main draw next week

17-November-2007. Another six bite the dust in Asia and Africa. 170 teams into next weeks draw
Africa first – Madagascar took a 6-2 lead into their match at Comoros, and finished the job with another win (4-0), to take the tie 10-2 on agrregate. No goals in Guinnau-Bissau, so Sierra Leone go through thanks to their 1-0 home win a month ago.

In Asia, Tajikistan was up first, and scored in the first minute against Singapore, Noh Alam Shah balanced the scores before the break and with no further goals added, Singapore went through by virtue of a 2-0 home win.

Sarayoot Chaikamdee, who had scored for Thailand in Yemen, scored another in the home match to give his team a single goal win, meaning they progress 2-1 on aggregate.

A hat-trick for Zaid Sha’abo as Syria demolish Indonesia by 7-0. Sha’abo also scored one in Inodonesia, and the aggregate score ends up as 11-1.

Finally, Turkmenistan secured a 3-0 home win against Hong Kong, which was also the aggregate score.

Two matches were played in Oceania – New Zealand winning their second away match, 2-1 in Vanuatu. The home side scored first, but Shane Smeltz levelled the scores and David Mulligan got the winner in injury time. Fiji were pulled back from 2-0 up to be held 3-3 by New Caledonia.

In South America, Argentina beat Bolivia 3-0 to maintain their 100% record. Paraguay are second after a 5-1 win over Ecuador, while Brazil (1-1 in Peru) and Colombia (1-0 at home to Venezeula) are also unbeaten.

    25-March-2008 Eritrea withdraw from African Qualifers

169 teams remain

Eritrea, from Group 11 in Africa and due to play Togo, Zambia and Swaziland have announced their withdrawal from the tournament.

    26-March-2008 Caribbean and Central America First Round – First nine out of CONCACAF 160 teams remain

There were also matches in February, these were first legs in CONCACAF and the first of six match series in the Asian groups, so this is the biggest week until things hot up in June.

In Asia, it was a week of surprise results. Japan lost 1-0 in Bahrain, Asian champions Iraq went down 2-0 in Qatar and Saudi Arabia by 3-0 in Uzbekistan. Iran, 2-0 up within four minutes were held 2-2 by Kuwait, their second draw in two games. Two matches were played in China, the North-South Korean derby having been switched to Shanghai after the two countries could not agree over showing flags and playing of national anthems. The South Korean Flag and Anthem is not permitted in the North, and the South insisted that FIFA rules (that the flag is displayed and the Anthem played) were kept to. The game ended 0-0, which as both teams had one their openers, looks like a good score for both. In Kumming, China and Australia also drew 0-0, with China having the better of the game, and missing a late penalty. The Aussies will be the happiest with this result, while China – also held in their opening game against Iraq in Dubai will be more nervous.

After two matches, Uzbekistan and Bahrain are the only teams with six points, while Thailand, Turkmenistan and Lebanon have suffered two defeats.

In CONCACAF, the first round is to knock out 11 countries by use of two legged ties. However, three of the ties have been reduced to single leg, and the match between the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands involves two matches, both this week, and both in the Bahamas. The first leg finished 1-1. The closest of all ties was in Bayamon, where Peurto Rico won by a single goal, scored in extra time – this one of the three single leg matches and one must wonder what would have happened if the Dominican Republic had played their home game. Another single leg match was played in Grenada, where Blackburn’s Jason Roberts scored the first two of nine goals, seeing them through to play Costa Rica in June. The final single leg match, Montserat against Suriname was played on a neutral venue in Trinidad, Suriname winning 7-1.

In other matches, St. Lucia overturned a 2-1 first leg deficit to go through and meet Guatemala, while Barbados’ 1-0 home win gives them a match against the USA in the next round. Antigua and Barbuda were already 3-0 up from their away leg, and added one more goal to defeat Aruba and earn a tie against Cuba. Belize’s 3-1 win over St. Kitts and Nevis in the first leg proved to be enough – they drew 1-1 in the second leg and now face Mexico. Anguilla, who had lost 12-0 in El Salvador, switched their return tie to Washington DC, going down by 4-0. Finally, Netherlands Antilles beat Nicaragua for the second time (3-0 aggregate) to claim a tie against Haiti in the next round.

This leaves two matches to be played this weeked. The British Virgin Islands will play again in the Bahamas in their second match, and the Cayman Islands will play Bermuda – in both cases the first legs finished 1-1.

    30-March-2008 Bahamas and Bermuda through – British Virgin Isles and Cayman out

158 teams remain

In the Bahamas, the second leg of the tie against Britsih Virgin Islands finished as the first did, level, thanks to two late goals by Anadale Williams. However, despite the two matches both being played in Nassau, the second leg was technically the Virgin Islands home match, and therefore with this match being 2-2, while the first was 1-1; it is the Virgin Islands who drop out on away goals.

It was true away goals that did for the Cayman Islanders. They may have been satisfied with a 1-1 draw in Bermuda, but in their home game they were quickly 3-0 down to two goals from Devaun Degraff and on eby Kwame Steede. The Cayman Islands pulled one back through a Marshall Forbes penalty but went down 3-1

    07-June-2008 First Casualties in Asia Groups

156 Teams Remain

The five groups for the current round of Asian Games means that 10 teams will exit this world cup on Monday 22nd.

After four matches in each group, two of these ten are known, as Turkmenistan and Lebanon can say goodbye to their chances of qualifying. So far, only one team (Uzbekistan) is certain to appear in the next stage.

    14-June-2008. Six more Asians teams out on day of decision – Puerto Rico fall

149 teams remain.

A big decision day in Asia, as all but two groups are settled – in Group 1, Iraq’s win in China sees the end of Chinese dreams for another four years, Asutralia won in Qatar and are through, while Iraq and Qatar will play for the final place

Japan won in Thailand, while Bahrain and Oman draw, but this means Thailand and Oman are out, Japan and Bahrain continue, as do both North and South Korea from group 3. Jordan who lost 2-0 in Pyongyang join Turkmenistan in being knocked out.

Uzbekistan won their fifth successive match in group 5, Saudi Arabia’s fouth win, in Singapore means they have also qualified. Singapore join Lebanon in going out.

Kuwait are the final team to lose out on the day, losing 3-2 at home to UAE. Iran are the only qualifyer from the group, thanks to a 2-0 win in Syria. Syria and UAE will have to settle their differences next week, with the odds strongly favouring the UAE.

Matches carry on this week around the world, except Europe, but the only decisive one was in Puerto Rico, where the home team, 4-0 down from the first leg, drew 2-2 with Honduras. Most of the other matches in CONCACAF are on the first leg of two

18-June-2008 Unlucky 13 for Bahamas – 148 teams remain.

Not that you can really count it unlucky – Bahamas lose their two legged tie against Jamaica by 7-0 and 6-0 (13-0 on aggregate) and bow out

20-June-2008. Canada get the better of St. Vincent and Grenadines 147 teams reamain
A 4-1 win in Montreal, aggregate 7-1 sees Canada take their expected place in te next round

21-June-2008. CONCACAF loses three more, Vanuatu and Seychelles stop dreaming 142 teams remain
For the three CONCACAF matches, see East Fork’s post above
Vanuatu, who drew at home to New Caledoniaa, lose the return match, and can no longer qualify.
Syechelles become the first African side to be sure of losing in the group stage, suffering their fourth defeat, 4-1 in Burkina Faso.

22-June-2008. Last two decisions in Asia, Doors close fo five more Africans, Six to go out in CONCACAF. 128 teams remain
Asia – Syria go out despite winning 3-1 in UAE, while Iraq, whose ‘home’ game is also played within the UAE lose 1-0 to Qatar and are out.
Africa – In group 1, neither Mauritius (1 point) or Tanzania (2 points) can qualify. The same fate also applies to Niger, Mauritania, and Djibouti, all of whom have lost four out of four
CONCACAF –
USA win 1-0 in Barbados – perfectly good, as it seals a 9-0 aggregate win.
Trinidad & Tobago 2-0 Bermuda (T & T 3-2) Stern John gets the clinching goal in the 69th minute.
Cuba 4-0 Antigua & Barbuda (Cuba 8-3)
Guyana 1-2 Suriname (Suriname 3-1)
Netherlands Antilles 0-1 Haiti (Haiti 1-0) An 81st minute own goal sends Haiti to the next stage!
El Salvador 3-1 Panama (El Salvador 3-2) Trailing 2-0 on aggregate, El Salvador nets 3 goals in the final 20 minutes to eliminate the canaleros!

28-June-2008 Lesotho lose postponed qualifyer and chance of going through 127 teams remain

In the match postponed from 31 May, Gabon beat Lesotho 2-0 with two goals from Angers striker Fabrice do Marcolino. This keeps Gabon in the contest but its the fourth defeat for Lesotho, ending their chances of going through.

The 6-5 Principle.

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

FIFA have chosen to oppose the European Union, but to take a populist stance with the 6+5 formula that would provide minimum quotas for Englishmen in the English Leagues, but will this really improve the England team, or may it make us look better, by making the opposition worse?

The FIFA statement makes it look like a great step forward, with the resolution voted for by an overwhelming 155 to 5 of delegates at the FIFA congress. However, the proposal had already been neutered by UEFA’s insistence that the wording was just one of negotiation. The resolution requests that “the Presidents of FIFA and UEFA to continue to explore … all possible means within the limits of the law to ensure that these crucial sporting objectives be achieved”. Anyway with 201 associations at the Congress, (seven did not turn up), 41 must have abstained. The voting record – exactly who voted against, or just abstained would have been interesting.

English football is very much in the mind of the people who are promoting the plan, Franz Beckenbauer said that “Everyone regrets that England will not take part in Euro 2008”, while Blatter said “This is a subject close to my heart. I want to protect the national teams and prevent leagues having only a small number of clubs with any chance of winning the title”. To be honest, it is an idea that has a general popularity with fans as well. Reading comments sent in to the BBC’s web site, the majority are in favour of rules to increase the number of Englishmen on view in the Premiership. Statistics (also provided by the BBC) point out the degree of the problem – just over one in three of all players who appeared in the Premiership are actually English, while on average, only 72 of the 220 starters on any given Saturday are English. To look at this from the other direction, 41 of the 368 registered players for Euro 2008 play in England, only Germany (58) and Spain (42) have more, and they of course are both in the finals.

The 6+5 plan means that in any domestic league match, a minimum of 6 of the players that start the game must be qualified to play for the country in which the club is domiciled, (i.e English, for clubs in the English League, except Cardiff and Swansea which are domiciled in Wales, and so would have to field 6 Welshmen). Ideally FIFA would phase this in with a minimum of 4 qualified players in 2010-11, and 5 the season after. Now, naturally this would not create much of a stir outside Europe as most national leagues already run with more stringent regulations in place. The only exception that immediately comes to my mind is the S-League in Singapore. While most teams are limited in the number of foreigners they field, they have three clubs that are associated to other countries, and none of these play any Singaporeans at all, but have squads that are 100% Japanese (Albirex Niigata), Korean (Korean Super Reds) or Chinese (Dalian).

Within the European Union, though, the situation is clear. Any player who is a citizen of the EU has a right to sign for and play for any club within the Union. Also a rule that discriminates the choice of one citizen over another is not permitted. Naturally there is nothing to prevent a rule being placed that at least 6 players in the starting line-up are EU citizens.

There is another string to the European Argument. There are clearly around five leagues within Europe that have a big financial advantage over all the others; these leagues provide most of the finalists for European club competitions. An international player who wants to prove himself among the best wants to play in one of these five leagues. Indeed the lack of good competitive play in his home league means that the player practically has to leave his home country in order to gain the experience required. On the way to Euro 2008, England were beaten by Croatia – only one out of their squad of 23 plays in the Croatian League, while three play in England.

Apart from England, concern over the number of nationals in their own league expands to Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands – but despite the money on offer, the situation is nowhere near so acute in either Italy or Spain. So is the problem for the English Leagues really due to the foreigners coming in, or is it due to the lack of Englishmen coming through the training regimes? The quota system suggested by FIFA may well help England do better against the likes of Croatia – but this may not mean the English team is any better – only that we restrict the chances for the Croats, and make their team worse.