Oceania granted World Cup spot - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Oceania granted World Cup spot

By Paul Mulvey 18/12/2002 05:44:54 AM Comments (0)

Australian soccer was given its greatest chance to make up for years of heartbreak when Oceania was granted direct entry to the 2006 World Cup.

The unanimous decision by soccer's governing body FIFA presented Australia with its biggest opportunity to finally prove itself after four losses at the final hurdle on the way to World Cup qualification.

While the Socceroos must still qualify for Germany 2006 as Oceania champion, there's little doubt a full strength Australia would beat New Zealand, its biggest threat in the region.

Asked whether this was the biggest day in Australian soccer history, Oceania Football Confederation president Basil Scarsella, a former chairman of Soccer Australia, toed the diplomatic line.

"That's a matter for Soccer Australia to address," Scarsella said.

"I think it's the biggest thing for Oceania. That's important to recognise, it's not just Australia, it's Oceania."

After over two years of campaigning and three frantic days of lobbying in Madrid, Scarsella received verbal support from the other five confederations but had a nervous wait for FIFA's executive committee to ratify their recommendation at Tuesday's meeting to decide the makeup of the 32-team 2006 tournament.

"It was unanimous support from every confederation and every member of the executive of FIFA," he said.

The other confederations stuck to their word at the meeting and supported Oceania although South America (CONMEBOL) and Europe (UEFA) were forced into making reluctant sacrifices.

The South Americans wanted to lift their quota from 4.5 to five, but dropped to four places.

Europe also held out as long as it could before taking a cut from 13.5 to 13, but UEFA actually has 14 places with Germany's automatic entry as host.

North and Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) was given the other half place, going from three to 3.5, while Asia retained its 4.5 places and Africa kept its five.

The fourth-placed CONCACAF country will play the fifth-ranked Asian country to decide the 32nd and final spot.

The champion no longer earns direct entry.

In previous years, Oceania had half a berth, forcing its champion in to a cut-throat home and away play-off against a low-ranked nation from a tougher confederation.

Australia lost the last three play-offs - to South America's fifth team Argentina for 1994, Asia's No.4 Iran for 1998 and again to South America's fifth side, Uruguay, for 2002.

It also lost to Scotland in 1986.

"We're there and we're delighted," Scarsella said.

"It's great for Australia, but also for the 10 other countries because it's going to have a great impact on the whole region."

Australia has made the World Cup once before - in 1974, also in Germany.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2022 AAP

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