UEFA confirms 2014 World Cup qualifying format

AFP, Monday 21 Mar 2011

Europe will retain the same format to decide which 13 nations qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, UEFA said on Monday

Gianni Infantino

UEFA secretary general Gianni Infantino said Europe will enter the same 53 countries which played in the 2010 World Cup qualifying tournament, when nine group winners gained direct entry to the event in South Africa.

The eight best runners-up will be drawn in two-legged playoffs to decide four remaining slots.
The 53 teams will be split into eight groups of six teams and one group of five teams.

Speaking after an executive committee meeting in Paris, Infantino said this proposal will be sent to FIFA for ratification.

"Today the decision was only on the format," Infantino said. "The regulations will be done by FIFA as well as any question related to the seedings." The preliminary draw for the 2014 World Cup, which will feature 32 teams, is scheduled for July 30 in Brazil.

Europe now has its lowest share of teams at the World Cup since the inaugural 1930 event, when four traveled to a 13-nation tournament in Uruguay.

Thirteen European teams played in the 1994 World Cup hosted by the United States which was the last with 24 countries.

Europe provided 15 of the 32 teams in 1998 and 2002 _ 14 of which went through qualifying while France qualified automatically as the '98 hosts. It also qualified as defending champion four years later, when Japan and South Korea co-hosted. Defending champions are no longer guaranteed a place.

In 2006, Europe was reduced to 13 qualifiers but host Germany was a 14th UEFA representative.

UEFA's executive committee meets on the eve of its annual congress, where Michel Platini will be confirmed unopposed for a second four-year term as president.

Infantino also announced that the executive committee approved recommendations from a working group on corruption and match fixing, "which focuses on establishing a network of integrity officers around Europe involving all national associations and on fostering collaboration with state authorities."

It is a danger as far as it affects the soul of football," Infantino said. "This is the reason why UEFA has decided to tackle this issue as strongly as possible." The executive committee also confirmed that the Bosnia federation will be suspended as from April if it doesn't make required statutory changes by then.

In November, Bosnia's federation was given until the end of March to cut its three presidents to one or face suspension from FIFA.

The federation currently consists of two associations: A Bosnian Serb and another shared by Bosniaks and Croats.

Together they are headed by a three-member presidency, made up of a Bosniak, a Croat and a Serb.

Bosnian officials are scheduled to meet next Tuesday to decide whether they will comply with UEFA and FIFA's requests.

The executive committee also appointed Istanbul, Turkey, as the host of next year's congress.

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