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World Cup bombshells for France, Portugal

[ 2009-12-03 11:25]     字号 [] [] []  
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France were handed a World Cup bombshell yesterday when they learned they were not among the top seeds for the tournament, although FIFA insisted the decision had nothing to do with the Thierry Henry handball incident.

The French delegation had traveled to Cape Town confident it would be among the seven heavyweights of world football to join hosts South Africa in the top strata, ensuring a relatively easier draw for the group stages.

But it was shocked when FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke announced the Netherlands would fill the remaining spot that had been in doubt ahead of 1998 winners France and semifinalists four years ago Portugal.

French optimism had been based on the way the seeds had been decided four years ago ahead of the World Cup in Germany. On that occasion, the latest FIFA rankings at that time had been taken into consideration along with performances in the two previous World Cups.

This time, however, Valcke said the seeding system was purely based on the FIFA world rankings of October this year. In those, France were in ninth place, but one place ahead of them were Croatia, who failed to qualify for the finals.

But with hosts South Africa already assured to be among the seeds, only seven places were available and France lost out on that criteria. Had it also been based on the two previous World Cups, they would have been seeded.

Instead, the squad drops down into the pot of teams consisting of the remaining European teams such as Slovenia, Slovakia, Denmark and Switzerland.

And it opens them up to the dire prospect of being drawn with the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Germany or Italy in the group stages. Two teams from each of the eight groups qualify for the last 16 direct elimination stages.

Defending the decision to go by the October rankings, Valcke said FIFA had felt that was the most efficient way of ensuring the best teams were allocated seeding privileges.

"Holland had a great qualifying campaign, like Spain, the first team having won all their matches, so Holland are in Pot 1," the FIFA No 2, behind Sepp Blatter, said.

He also denied France had been relegated from the seeds as a punishment for the controversial way they qualified, with Henry's handball putting them through at the expense of Ireland.

"It had nothing to do with that," he said. "The seedings were decided according to the rankings in October, before that match was played.

"In no way was it a sanction against France. It had nothing to do with the Ireland game."

Henry's now notorious handball in extra-time of the playoff with the Irish in Paris last month was enough to heave the struggling French over the qualification line but it sparked huge protest.

FIFA subsequently turned down Irish calls for the match to be replayed and then threw out another Irish request to make them the 33rd team qualified for the tournament. Irish soccer chiefs criticized Blatter for making public details of their request for the extra place.

But the furor over the incident, which spread around the world, provoked an under-fire FIFA into calling an emergency meeting of its executive committee to discuss how to better referee World Cup games.


(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

World Cup bombshells for France, Portugal

About the broadcaster:

World Cup bombshells for France, Portugal

Nancy Matos is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Nancy is a graduate of the Broadcast Journalism and Media program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Her journalism career in broadcast and print has taken her around the world from New York to Portugal and now Beijing. Nancy is happy to make the move to China and join the China Daily team.