FIFA yet to decide on World Cup seedings formula
FIFA has yet to select a formula to seed the 32 World Cup qualifiers for the finals draw. Football's world governing body said Thursday that the decision will be taken two days before the Dec. 4 draw in Cape Town, South Africa, by a panel composed mainly of FIFA executive committee members. "The procedure of the final draw will be decided at the bureau of the organizing committee for the 2010 World Cup," FIFA said in a statement. FIFA was criticized by European playoff contender Ireland when it confirmed in September - more than a year after matches began - that the eight nations advancing to the final qualifying stage would be seeded. The Irish said that the late decision was designed to protect the chances of higher-ranked nations, including France and Portugal, by keeping them apart in the draw. France eventually knocked out Ireland on a disputed goal in extra time of Wednesday's second leg. The draw for the final tournament will allocate 32 nations into eight playing groups of four teams. Groups are headed by a top-seeded team with others drawn from each of three seeded tiers. Host South Africa will automatically be a top-seeded team despite being No. 85 in the FIFA world rankings last month. The organizing committee's bureau must choose a formula to rank the other 31 teams. It is chaired by African football president Issa Hayatou of Cameroon and includes nine of his FIFA executive colleagues plus South African officials Irvin Khoza and Danny Jordaan. At past World Cup draws, the formula has combined rankings averaged over the three previous years with performance at the two or three previous tournaments. Nine of the current top 10 nations have progressed with only seven top seedings available to them. Traditional powers like France, the Netherlands or Portugal could drop among eight second-tier nations with the possibility of facing favorite Brazil, European champion Spain or world champion Italy in the opening stage. The bottom tier is sure to include outsiders such as Honduras, New Zealand and North Korea, which top nations would expect to beat. However, it could also include Slovakia, which won its qualifying group despite being ranked No. 53 last March.