Fifa will use rankings to seed World Cup play-offs

Similar system caused controversy four years ago ahead of finals in South Africa

Journalists are reflected in a logo at the Fifa headquarters  in Zurich. Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Journalists are reflected in a logo at the Fifa headquarters in Zurich. Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Tue, Oct 8, 2013, 15:05

Fifa will once again keep the top four teams apart in the draw for Europe’s World Cup qualifying play-offs, despite controversy over the system four years ago.

The draw to see which four of the eight group runners-up will qualify for next summer’s finals in Brazil will take place on October 21st at Fifa’s headquarters in Zurich.

The top four teams will be seeded according to their Fifa ranking and will play against one of four lower-ranked teams, a system that was criticised by the Republic of Ireland when they were drawn against France for the 2010 World Cup play-off.

Former Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni described the seeding system as the “death of football”, while goalkeeper Shay Given branded it “disgusting” and “totally unfair on the smaller nations” because the countries had already been seeded in their qualifying groups.

Roy Hodgson’s England could be involved in the play-off if results in the final qualifiers against Montenegro on Friday and Poland on Tuesday do not go according to plan.

Fifa said in a statement: “The eight teams will be seeded in two pots with the four highest-ranked teams placed in one pot.

“The ranking will be based on the Fifa/Coca-Cola world ranking published on October 17, 2013. The matches are due to be played on November 15 and November 19 respectively.”

There are nine European qualifying groups and the eight best runners-up will go into the play-offs, two legs played on a home-and-away basis, to determine the four remaining European slots for the final tournament.

As one of the qualifying groups has only five teams and the others all have six, the results against teams ranked sixth will not be taken into account when determining who are the best runners-up. It will be decided by points, then goal difference, goals scored, goals scored away from home and if necessary on disciplinary ranking.

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