Given frustrated by Fifa seeding move


WORLD CUP 2010: MARY HANNIGANhears how Shay Given feels about FIfa’s decision to seed the teams that make it into the play-offs for the World Cup finals

IT’S 13 months since the Republic of Ireland squad first assembled for World Cup qualifying duty, in preparation for their opening games against Georgia in Mainz and Montenegro in Podgorica. Shay Given, who will win his 99th cap against Italy, and Richard Dunne were among the players gathering again yesterday in a dank and gloomy Dublin for the conclusion of the group stage of the campaign.

While Given spoke at length and with admiration about his former Manchester City team-mate, who scored against him for Aston Villa on Monday night and was named man of the match, his mood darkened considerably when the subject changed to Fifa’s recent announcement that the teams who make it in to the World Cup qualifying play-offs will be seeded.

“It’s pretty disgusting to be honest. I think the rules should be laid clear before any ball is kicked and then there’s no dark cloud or whatever. I think it’s ridiculous how they can make a decision now when some of the big-name nations are maybe struggling to qualify.

“It’s totally unfair on us smaller nations. If they say that before a ball is kicked then at least you know the picture, you know exactly where you stand but to change it now is absolutely ridiculous and I don’t think it’s right at all.

A “carve-up” for the big nations then? “Yes . . . I just believe that if they’d said that from day one, it’s clear for all the nations, but to change it at this stage is beyond belief, to be honest. To change it is crazy and I don’t know how they have got away with it or how the smaller nations like ourselves haven’t put up a bigger fight because . . . if from day one, it’s clear then it’s clear, but now they change it because some of the bigger nations are struggling, it’s totally unfair on us smaller nations.”

Given’s frustration with the “smaller” nations’ failure, so far, to put up a fight over Fifa’s decision was evident.

Should the FAI have objected?

“All the nations should try and kick up a fuss because I don’t believe it’s right. That’s just my opinion, that’s what I believe. There are people high up in delegations and maybe their countries are needing a hand to qualify, I don’t know.

“There are eight teams that go into the play-offs as runners-up and the ninth team doesn’t make it, that was clear from day one, before a ball was kicked and this other thing that should have been clear from day one as well.

“I don’t understand how they can change it now. It’s ridiculous.”

Can it galvanise you, though, as players?

“We’ll not use it an excuse or anything, I just think it’s stupid, but come the worst-case scenario and we get into the play-offs – we’ve still got two points to pick up before we can even talk about that – but worst-case scenario, whoever we do play, we’ll be fired up.

“Saturday night will give us belief, and going away to Italy gave us strong belief that we can go away to these big countries and get results.

“It will be a sell out at Croke Park, over 80,000 people and a great atmosphere at night time with the floodlights.

“It will be buzzing, it’s a great game for any footballer to play in. It is going to be close, but obviously Italy are in the driving seat.

“All we can do is focus on Saturday – try to beat them and then try and beat Montenegro in the last game, then it comes down to what they do in their last game.”

And you’ll have Dunne on your side this time?

“Aye,” he laughed, “thankfully. He was man of the match (on Monday) and rightly so. He came up with a very good header (for the goal) but at the other end of the pitch I thought he was fantastic as well – their best player.

“He’s very dangerous at set plays and he’s a top defender. In the second half he played against Roque Santa Cruz and Adebayor – what a strike force, plus Carlos Tevez! And he never gave them a sniff all game.

“You could even hear the Man City fans calling his name and thanking him for the great years of service he gave to them, I don’t think too many fans had a bad word to say about him – his reaction, or non-reaction, when he scored the goal (when Dunne opted not to celebrate in front of the City fans) said it all really.”