2014 World Cup Feature: Africa and Asia fluff Cup slot audition as Americas excel
Off-field African dramas and awful Asian performances on the pitch did nothing for the two continents’ hopes of more World Cups places as teams from the Americas pushed their claims with strong displays in Brazil.
CONCACAF, the Caribbean, Central and North American confederation, saw three of its teams – the United States, Mexico and Costa Rica – reach the knockout stage for the first time, with only Honduras failing to get past the group phase.
CONMEBOL, the South American federation, had six teams in Brazil, their largest contingent since seven took part in the inaugural 1930 World Cup, with a record five advancing to the knockout stages for the second tournament in a row.
Those impressive displays were in marked contrast to Asia, where the region’s four teams failed to win a game at a World Cup for the first time since 1990.
Australia, South Korea, Japan and Iran all finished bottom of their groups in Brazil with the quartet gathering only three points between them.
Africa achieved a breakthrough when two of their teams made it through to the knockout stages of the same finals for the first time, but Algeria and Nigeria exited in the last 16 and the quarter-finals remain the continent’s best ever effort.
African champions Nigeria were among three sides beset by disputes over appearance fees that have long undermined the region.
Cameroon refused to travel to Brazil until their complaints over money were sorted out by their federation, while Ghana President John Mahama had to send millions in cash to Brasilia before his side would play Portugal in their final group game.
The money did not stop the troubles, though, as two players were kicked out of the Ghana squad for ill-discipline before the team exited with a defeat by the Portuguese.
The woes meant another World Cup of missed opportunity for potential-filled Africa.
Thankfully for them and Asia the breakdown of the 32 places at a World Cup is often determined by other factors.
Next year FIFA president Sepp Blatter is likely to stand for a fifth term in office at soccer’s world governing body with his counterpart at UEFA, Michel Platini, tipped to run against him.
Blatter said last year he thought the African and Asian Confederations deserved more World Cup slots, a move widely regarded as a sweetener for votes ahead of the election.
Of the 209 votes available to elect the FIFA president Africa and Asia boast 100, double that of CONCACAF AND CONMEBOL, and the Asians are fully aware of their power.
“Asia definitely deserves more spots (at the World Cup) for many reasons,” FIFA vice-president Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan told Reuters earlier in the tournament.
“Two thirds of the global population and footballers are from Asia, it’s the largest continent, we have 46 Member Associations and, most importantly, Asian football has taken impressive strides towards development.”
Platini responded to Blatter’s calls for more african and Asian slots by suggesting future World Cups should feature 40 teams so UEFA could at least keep their 13 places, which has slimmed down from 15 at the first 32-team World Cup in 1998.
Germany’s victory over Argentina in Sunday’s final made it three straight World Cup wins for UEFA, following triumphs by Italy and Spain, but questions remain about the merits of the middle ranking European teams.
Only six UEFA sides reached the knockout stage in Brazil, the joint lowest total for the continent matching its 2010 showing, with England, Bosnia and Russia among the strugglers.
They know the results of next year’s FIFA presidential election will be significant in determining whether the other five Confederations will grab more of their places