Is seeding the World Cup play-offs playing fair?

October 11, 2009

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and for every FIFA marketing slogan there is a subsequent decision that can make fans wonder if world football’s governing body is being serious.

Fair Play Please” is the current favourite but how, exactly, does that square with the decision to make the European zone World Cup playoffs a seeded affair?

Nowhere in the acres of pre-qualifying regulations was there a suggestion that the playoffs would be seeded but now the good people of Zurich have realised that some of the biggest names in the game could be involved in the November home and away matches, the new rule has been presented as a fait accompli.

So the eight teams in the playoffs will be seeded according to their FIFA ranking — conveniently avoiding the prospect of France playing, say, Portugal and one of the continent’s big guns being forced to miss out.

Unsurprisingly, the decision was not welcomed by the likes of Ireland – into the playoffs but likely to be seeded in the “bottom half”.

Bosnia were too busy celebrating making the playoffs on Saturday to worry about their structure but wouldn’t they be right in thinking they deserve as much a chance of facing, say, Greece or Slovenia as Russia or France?

The nine group winners got their reward in automatic qualification. Shouldn’t the best eight second-place teams (Norway look set to be the unlucky ninth-best runners-up who will miss out altogether) be left to take their chances having, in some cases, overcome tough seeding in the group the first time round to make it this far?

The arrival of bright new teams, and the chance for unfamiliar players to make names for themselves on the biggest stage of all, help keep the World Cup fresh and exciting. If the rules just make it more likely that the Big Boys always make it, the worry must be that the game and the tournament will end up being the loser.

PHOTO: Ireland’s Liam Lawrence reacts after their 2010 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Italy at Croke Park Stadium in Dublin October 10, 2009. REUTERS/Darren Staples

13 comments

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it is a tricky one because obviously the bigger teams will make FIFA more money at the World Cup but having a less profile nation like Bosnia or Slovenia there would be good PR too i think…Quite who the top four seeds will be is not certain. France, Portugal, Russia, Greece….what about Ukraine/Croatia?

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

[...] Original post:  Reuters Soccer Blog » Blog Archive » Is seeding the World Cup play … [...]

I first of all do not think seeding is fair. It devaluates the qualifying and is not fair for the smaller teams as it decreases their chances.What I do have the biggest gripe with is the fact that they can decide to seed it if and when. They should have clear rules from the start.http://www.worldfootballcolumns.co m

[...] Source add it: Tags: action there is an equal and opposite reaction, automatic qualification, big boys, big guns, Bosnia, Croke Park, cup playoffs, Darren Staples, dublin, equal and opposite reaction, european zone, fair play, fait accompli, France, governing body, greece, group winners, Ireland, Italy, Liam Lawrence, loser, Norway, portugal, runners, russia, unfamiliar players, World Cup, world football, ZURICH [...]

Mitch, I agree with your point 100 percent, you’ve echoed my view really.

Posted by Zoran | Report as abusive

I don’t see anything wrong with seeding, myself. Where i do agree is that they should have made this clear from the start. I mean, it;s hardly unusual for one or two big teams to have to come through the playoffs.

Posted by Celtig Tiger | Report as abusive

They seeded the 2006 Euro qualifying playoffs too, so it’s not exactly a shock that they’ve done it again. They should make it clear from the outset next time around whether or not this is going to happen though, to avoid it looking like they’re changing the rules as they go along to favour certain teams.

Posted by Richie | Report as abusive

If it was unfair people wouldn’t complain about it. Yes it does make sense ! The thing is any way you look at it , Slovenia would be a better draw than France..

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

its more of the same as far as I am concerned. Fifa rules clearly favour european teams and now it is being stretched further to absurdity. i have often wondered why certain european countries make the WC. if they had to qualify thru africa countries like greece, slovakia, slovenia, ireland, bosnia, russia, ukraine and others would barely have a chance. i would support a system where after a qualification tourney the best 32 in the world go to the WC. 13 countries from Europe is a laughable travesty.

Posted by Caeji | Report as abusive

Caeji you are wrong the standard to football in Europe is much better then the rest of the world, you are obviously not from Europe and just want to have a moan! stick to the subject and stop being boring boring boring !!!!

Posted by joe | Report as abusive

Seeding is reward for credits earned from past achievement. If all teams start right from scratch by simply casting lots, it looks more like a lottery than legitimate competition. If either England or Brazil has to be eliminated in the first round, the tournament is much less attractive further on.

Posted by Doctor Mario | Report as abusive

Caeji, there are currently 21 European teams in the top 32 in the world, so as a European I would be quite happy to see the top 32 countries in the World Cup. Please recognise that the system is actually loaded against European countries. This is perhaps the right thing to do, as it should help to develop the sport, but it is hard to maintain one’s enthusiasm for the arrangement in the face of fact-defying ingratitude from people such as you.

Posted by Oliver Chettle | Report as abusive

seeding playoff is ok if it has been stated in clear terms be4 the commencement, on the other hand if not stated frm onset, it is wrong.

Posted by olayinka | Report as abusive

[...] four days on from my blog on Sunday, the decision to seed the Euroepan teams in the qualifiers doesn’t look any [...]

this is no surprise and fifa are just trying to undo there stupidity in dropping the number of european teams in the world cup.all to accomadate irrelevant football nations from asia and central america north america etc weho are not good enough to be there anyway

Posted by noel g | Report as abusive

FIFA is a disgrace. They speak about “fair play” continuously but when some of the bigger teams (namely France, homeland of the FIFA chairman) have a chance of going out, they bend the rules. Ireland deseve to be through to the world cup but of course, they won’t accept that the fair desicion would be a replay. Football has become a sport in which cheaters win, simple as that!

Posted by Charlie | Report as abusive