Africa 'deserves' more places at World Cup
Africa deserves more than five places at the World Cup, the Cameroon Football Federation president says, claiming that half of the European teams that qualify aren't any better than many African contenders.
Mohammed Iya said on Friday that Africa's football leaders were ''convinced we deserve more.''
On the eve of the African Cup of Nations in South Africa, Iya was backed by Ghana counterpart Kwesi Nyantakyi, who used his team's progression to the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup - also in South Africa - as an indicator that the continent's teams had an ''enhanced'' reputation in world football.
Europe will have 13 qualifying places for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, unchanged from 2010, while 14 places will be available for European teams in 2018 because Russia has an automatic place as host.
World body FIFA has given no indication that it is considering increasing Africa's allotment in 2018, the next time it's able to do so, although the ruling body does review how many places are made available to each continent after each World Cup and will do so again after Brazil.
Europe's allocation, the biggest by far and more than twice the amount of any other continent, was the obvious problem for African hopefuls.
''We are convinced we deserve more,'' Iya said. ''Europe has 14 (in 2018). I'm very sure that half of those teams are at the same level as African teams. We deserve more.''
Africa has done little to enhance its reputation at the World Cup, with no African team yet able to make the last four of the competition. Ghana, which was on the brink of the semifinals in 2010, was still only the third African team to make a quarterfinal in the 80 years of the World Cup.
Although there has been significant general improvement across Africa, the continent's consistent world-class teams are limited now to Ivory Coast and Ghana.
Iya, whose Cameroon team failed to qualify for the 2013 African Cup, said competitions in Africa were improving and also pointed to the success of Congolese club TP Mazembe, which made the final of the Club World Cup in 2010. Ghana's under-20 team won the youth World Cup in 2009, beating Brazil in the final.
''You can see the quality of our competitions is getting better and better,'' Iya said. ''I think we deserve more and we rely on people of the press to help us achieve that objective.''
Although a growing number of international stars like Ivorians Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure and Ghana's Asamoah Gyan hail from Africa, its national teams still offer limited profit-making opportunities when compared to countries from Europe and Asia, for example.
But African football leaders say that could change with more chances to play at the World Cup.
''If we were to get more places, then we'd certainly end up getting more sponsorship as a result,'' Senegal Football Federation president Agustin Senghor said.
Senegal and Cameroon were the other teams to make the World Cup quarterfinals in 2002 and 1990 respectively. Both failed to qualify for this month's African Cup.