Pacific Games no longer a WCup qualifier

BY foxsports • June 29, 2011

World Cup and Olympic qualifying in Oceania has been reorganized because Guam is participating in the Pacific Games, which have been used in the past as continental football qualifiers.

Oceania Football Confederation general secretary Tai Nicholas said next month's Pacific Games tournament in New Caledonia could no longer be used for qualifying for Brazil 2014 or the women's tournament at the London 2012 Olympics because Guam was a member of the Asian Football Confederation.

''FIFA have been very clear that they cannot approve a FIFA qualifying event where non-OFC members are participating,'' Nicholas said Wednesday.

He said FIFA had now approved a new four-stage World Cup qualifying format within the Oceania region.

The last Pacific Games in Samoa in 2007 formed part of the Oceania qualifying series for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. This year's games will involve 11 men's and 10 women's teams.

Nicholas said the first stage of the new Oceania World Cup qualifying process will involve the four lowest-ranked OFC member associations - American Samoa, Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga - taking part in a league-based tournament in late November.

The second stage will see the revival of the OFC Nations Cup in which eight countries - Fiji, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Vanuatu and the winner of stage one - will take part in a tournament which will culminate with semifinals and a final. The tournament will be held June 1-12 next year, with the winner representing Oceania at 2013 the Confederations Cup.

The four highest-placed teams from the second stage will then contest a third stage involving a round-robin, home-and-away playoff series, likely to take place between Sept. 7, 2012 and March, 26, 2013.

The winner of the third stage will advance to the inter-continental playoff for a place at the World Cup Brazil. FIFA will decide on July 30 whether the OFC representative will face an Asian, Central American or South American opponent.

Nicholas said the new qualification format will provide extended interest for regional football fans.

''The withdrawal from the Pacific Games has given us the opportunity to review the qualification pathway and we believe we have developed several events that will cater to the needs of our members and fans across the Pacific,'' he said.

The women's Olympic qualifying series will now involve a three-stage process.

New Zealand will be seeded to the second stage, while the eight other OFC nations who are also IOC members - American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu - will play a tournament with semifinals and a final.

The winner of the preliminary stage final will then play New Zealand in a one-off match hosted by the preliminary winner. As was the case for the 2008 Olympics, the winner of this match will qualify for the London Games.