Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Irish Keeper Slams 'Seeding' in Europe Playoffs

It was one of those announcements that didn't get all that much attention, when it went down.

Last week, FIFA announced that the eight second-place European qualifying group finishers headed to the four home-and-home playoffs in November for berths in South Africa 2010 ... would be seeded.

That is, don't look for two traditionally powerful soccer nations to be randomly matched in the struggle for the final four Europe berths in the World Cup finals.

And a key player for one of the "lesser" potential group runners-up is not happy about this. At all. In fact, Shay Given, Ireland's keeper, was quoted in this story as calling it a "disgusting" situation.

Given does have a fair complaint: European clubs were not told, before qualifying began, that the second-place teams would be seeded.

As he notes, it seems only fair that all the procedures for getting to the 2010 World Cup should be clear and established even before the process began.

As the story notes, seeding would eliminate potential playoff matches such as France and Germany, who could each finish second in their groups.

If the standings remain as they are, now, when qualifying group play is completed next Wednesday, the seeded second-place nations would be Croatia, France, Greece and Russia. And they would be drawn against either Bosnia, Ireland, Slovenia or Sweden.

Thus, Ireland and Given would have to fight past a genuine soccer power, in the playoff, rather than have a chance to go up against historically lesser sides such as Slovenia and Bosnia.

Next time around, FIFA should make this clear. Let everyone know what the rules are. From Day 1.

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