Fifa to seed countries for play-off draw


Soccer:Fifa’s decision to use a seeding system based on the world rankings could leave the Republic of Ireland with a mountain to climb should they qualify for the 2010 World Cup play-offs. Fifa announced last night that the eight teams in the play-offs will be seeded for the draw.

World soccer’s governing body had previously indicated that an open draw would be used to determine who faced who. Instead, it will be based on the Fifa rankings as of October 16th.

"We have decided on seeding the teams into two groups of four, taking the Fifa world rankings into account, with the top four in one pot and the others in another pot," Sepp Blatter said yesterday.

Of the teams likely to make it to the playoffs, Ireland’s current ranking of 38th places them at a distinct disadvantage as they stand fifth in the pecking order.

As of today, the eight countries bound for the play-offs are Russia, Croatia, France, Greece, Republic of Ireland, Norway, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Slovenia.

The top four seeds - Russia, Croatia, France and Greece – would go into the first pot with Ireland joining the remaining countries in the second.

Needless to say, with two matches still to play the landscape could shift dramatically and, unless Giovanni Trapattoni’s side can hold on to second place in Group Eight, concerns over the draw will be academic.

Ireland face Italy at Croke Park on Saturday week with Montenegro arriving at GAA headquarters the following Wednesday.

So far, of Europe's 13 teams among the 32 that will qualify for the finals only three have secured their places with next month's final two qualifiers to come: Spain, England and The Netherlands.

France, World Cup winners at home in 1998 and runners-up in the last tournament in Germany in 2006, are second in Group Seven, four points behind Serbia.

Three-times world champions Germany are fighting it out with Russia for top place in Group Four. The Germans lead by one point.

Portugal, semi-finalists in 2006, are in danger of not even making it to the play-offs, thus denying the tournament of one of its chief attractions, Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Portuguese are third in Group One with 13 points, five less than leaders Denmark and two behind Sweden and they are level on points with fourth-placed Hungary.

Switzerland lead Group Two by three points from Greece and Latvia, and Slovakia head Group Three by five from Slovenia and Northern Ireland.

Bosnia are four points clear of Turkey, surprise semi-finalists in Asia in 2002, in the race for the play-off berth in Group Five which Spain, who have a maximum 24 points so far, have already won.

England's Group Six has Croatia and Ukraine vying to reach the play-offs while Trapattoni’s side are four points behind leaders Italy, the reigning world champions, in Group Eight.

Norway and Scotland are neck and neck in second place in Group Nine which was won by Netherlands with a perfect eight wins.

Current Table for Playoffs

P W D L F A Pts

1 Russia 7 6 0 1 16 4 18
2 France 7 3 3 1 9 8 12
3 Slovenia 7 3 2 2 8 4 11
4 Croatia 7 3 2 2 11 12 11
5 Bosnia-Herz 6 3 1 2 15 7 10
6 Greece 6 3 1 2 9 6 10
7 Norway 8 2 4 2 9 7 10
8 Rep of Ireland 6 2 4 0 6 4 10
9 Sweden 6 2 3 1 4 3 9

* The winners of the nine European groups automatically qualify for the World Cup finals, with the eight best runners-up going through to the play-offs (played over two legs on November 14th and 18th) for the four remaining qualifying slots.

Group Nine has five teams, one less than all the other groups, so when calculating the best runners-up, results from matches against bottom teams in Groups One to Eight will be discounted.

The criteria used to determine the eight best runners-up are: (1) total points, (2) goal difference, (3) goals scored, (4) goals scored away from home, (5) disciplinary record (6) drawing of lots.

Where those teams stand in the Fifa Rankings

1 Russia (6th)
2 Croatia (9th)
3 France (10th)
4 Greece (12th)
5 Rep of Ireland (38th)
6 Sweden (41st) *
7 Norway (43rd)
8 Bosnia (46th)
9 Slovenia (54th)

* Not currently in a position to qualify for play-offs