Thursday, March 31, 2011

Brazil 2014 draw stirs Asian hopefuls

Nearly nine months on since the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ concluded, Asia put the wheels in motion for Brazil 2014 by conducting the draw for the opening two qualifying rounds on Wednesday. 16 of the continent's lowest ranked sides will battle against each other in the first phase, with the eight winners advancing to join a further 22 teams in the next stage. Australia, Korea Republic, Japan,Korea DPR and Bahrain – the confederation’s top five teams in South Africa 2010 qualifying – will automatically enter in Round 3.

Yesterday's event largely turned out to be kind for some traditional powerhouses, with four-time FIFA World Cup qualifiers Saudi Arabia drawn to meet Hong Kong. Fellow east Asian giants Iran cross paths with Maldives, a side against whom they netted 22 unanswered goals against over two legs in qualifying for France 1998. Team Melli legend Karim Bagheri scoring a then FIFA World Cup record seven goals in Tehran.

China PR, the fifth highest Asian team in the current FIFA/Coca Cola World Ranking, are pitted against the winners of Cambodia and Laos. While a comfortable aggregate victory should be within their grasp, head coach Gao Hongbo refused to take their prospective opponents lightly. "We have paid the price for our slip-ups on too many occasions in past World Cup bids, so the lessons we must learn is that we can't underestimate any opponent," said Gao. "We should focus our attention on preparation and do our best regardless of the rivals."
The opening round will also provide some of lesser known teams with a rare chance to enjoy the spotlight and cause an upset. Boosted by their recent qualifying success for the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup, Philippines are keen to shrug off their whipping-boys tag when they take on Sri Lanka. "It is not a bad draw for us," Philippines coach Michael Weiss told "Sri Lanka represents a force in south Asia but we should have a good chance against them."

Awaiting the Filipinos, should they get the better of Sri Lanka, will be ten-time Gulf champions and 1982 FIFA World Cup participants Kuwait, who are 48 places above the Azkals in the global pecking order. The German tactician remains undaunted saying his side do not intend to merely make up the numbers, regardless of their opponent. "If we have all our top players available with the preparation going smoothly, we have a 30 per cent chance against them,” he said. “At least we will give them a hard time.”

Enticing match-ups The draw throws up a host of intriguing match-ups, with the encounter between 2011 AFC Asian Cup finalists United Arab Emirates and India arguably the most intriguing. Both sides bowed out after the group stage in January's continental competition, but it was the Middle East side that can draw inspiration from a 5-0 friendly triumph over the south Asians in the Asian Cup build-up.

"On paper we may be favourites to win the campaign," said UAE's Slovenian coach Srecko Katanec. "But things are very close nowadays and any team can cause a sensation if they are on their day. Besides, we should also keep wary of the difficulties caused by the hot and humid weather."

The second round also pits some familiar foes together, with Asian Cup semi-finalists Uzbekistan locking horns with Kyrgyzstan in an all-Central Asian affair. Neighbours Tajikistan face another meeting against Syria, with the pair having also met in the qualification campaign for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, when the latter prevailed 3-1 on aggregate.

Another former Soviet republic, Turkmenistan, will resume an unlikely rivalry against Indonesia, with the two side’s level on head-to-head record after each claimed a home 3-1 win in their previous meetings, also in Germany 2006 qualifying. For their part, 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts Qatar may feel they have a score to settle with Vietnam, after their last meeting ended in a surprise 1-1 draw and contributed to the Gulf nation’s early exit from the 2007 Asian Cup.
Thailand received, on paper at least, a favourable draw. Their coach Bryan Robson told "We've got either Afghanistan or Palestine, which is quite ironic really as we've just met Palestine in an Olympic qualifier. But if we get the same result and get through to the group stages then I won't be complaining! Obviously the target is Brazil, which is some way off, but we've got to start somewhere."
Round 1 
Malaysia-Chinese Taipei
Sri Lanka-Philippines

Round 2 
Thailand-Afghanistan or Palestine
Lebanon-Bangladesh or Pakistan
China PR-Cambodia or Laos
Kuwait-Sri Lanka or Philippines
Oman-Mongolia or Myanmar
Saudi Arabia-Hong Kong
Qatar-Vietnam or Macau
Singapore-Malaysia or Chinese Taipei
United Arab Emirates-India
Jordan-Nepal or Timor-Leste

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Brazil will meet World Cup deadline: Officials

By Reuters
RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil's 2014 World Cup officials are lining up to debunk FIFA  chief Sepp Blatter's suggestion they are behind schedule, with Rio de Janeiro state sports secretary Marcia Lins joining the fray on Wednesday. 

"Blatter mustn't worry, the (construction) time frame will be met," Lins said in an interview. 

FIFA president Blatter criticised on Monday what he called Brazil's day-after-tomorrow attitude to their World Cup preparations. 

He said political infighting was delaying work especially in Rio, which is to host the final at the giant Maracana stadium, and Sao Paulo where work has not yet begun on a venue to hold the opening match. 

The Brazilian government and the local organising committee also said soccer's ruling body FIFA should not worry and invited Blatter to come and see for himself. 

"If (FIFA) have doubts they can be clarified. They can come here and watch the work going on at the Maracana," said Lins, repeating the invitation to Blatter. 

"We have cameras monitoring the works and the local organising committee have access. There are daily visits and inspections that will show the Maracana won't be a problem for the (2013) Confederations Cup," Lins added. 

"The stadium will be ready in December 2012. There's no risk of that not happening." 


Lins said she was working on the basis of the Maracana being the main arena for the Confederations Cup which will act as a dress rehearsal for the World Cup a year later. 

"It's a natural thing. One of the objectives of the Confederations Cup is to test the stadiums for the (World) Cup. The Maracana, apart from staging the final, will be used for other matches," she said. 

"Rio is also the gateway to Brazil which gives the stadium even more relevance." 

The project for the stadium's refurbishment is to be officially unveiled on April 19. 

It will detail all the work to be undertaken including whether the run-down upper tier will be restored or rebuilt from scratch -- which is expected to increase costs from 705 million reais ($428 million) to more than one billion. 

"If we opt for restoring (the Maracana) it will get a new lease of life of something over 10 years," Lins said. "If we decide on reconstruction, that time could be 20, 30 years depending on the materials we use." 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Brazil hits back at FIFA, says no divisions over 2014

By Africa Reuters
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil's top soccer official has hit back at criticism from FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, saying there was harmony between the government and the 2014 World Cup tournament's organising committee.

"I'm unaware of any conflict between mayors and governors in any of the twelve 2014 World Cup venues," said Brazilian Football Confederation president Ricardo Teixeira, who is also head of the Local Organising Committee (COL).

"On the contrary, FIFA has seen for years the combined work of the public authorities with the Local Organising Committee and FIFA itself," he said in a statement posted on the CBF website (

Teixeira said Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff had shown her support "concerning the federal government's principal attributes (airports and urban transport)."

Blatter had been scathing of progress on the tournament on Monday, and said political squabbles were a principal cause of the delays, particularly in Rio de Janeiro, which is to host the final at the giant Maracana stadium, and Sao Paulo where work has not yet begun on a stadium to hold the opening match.

Teixeira said the Maracana would be ready within the deadline set by FIFA in 2013 in time for the Confederations Cup which serves as a dress rehearsal for the World Cup finals despite problems recently discovered in the upper tier that will have to be redone from scratch rather than simply restored.

He added that he had been given guarantees from the parties involved in building a new stadium in Sao Paulo that it would also been ready within the set time frame.

"It's not the job of the CBF to pressure governors, the less so when there's no reason to do so," Teixeira said before he invited Blatter to Brazil to see the progress of work.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Blatter urges Brazil to speed up World Cup stadia

GENEVA — FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Monday urged Brazil to speed up its 2014 World Cup preparations, warning that Rio and Sao Paulo might not be ready to host Confederations Cup matches a year beforehand.
"If you make a comparison between the state of play in South Africa and Brazil three years before the World Cup, Brazil is behind Africa. It shouldn't be said but it's a fact," the head of world football's governing body told journalists.
"If they carry on working like that when we have the Confederations Cup... a year before the World Cup as a rehearsal, there won't be matches in Rio and no matches in Sao Paulo," he added. "The World Cup stadiums are still not ready."
Blatter said he was waiting for "a bit of effect" from the five-time World Cup winners "because it's not moving forward, it's not moving forward very fast".
"What they should do in Brazil is put a little bit more speed in the organisation," he added.
But Brazilian Sports Minister Orlando Silva responded to Blatter's criticism by saying work in 10 of the 12 cities was progressing "at full speed".
"We have some problems with the Natal and Sao Paulo stadiums but in the other cities the work is going ahead at full speed," Silva said.
"I understand FIFA's worry and concern, but we don't want to talk with them. We only want to work so the calendar is maintained."
Silva, however, added that he too was concerned with the state of progress in works in the transport sector, notably airports.
Work on almost all of the 12 World Cup venues in the country is behind schedule, while airports in Brazil are also saturated, with flight delays and cancellations a common daily occurrence.
Retired Brazilian soccer legend Pele claimed last month that Brazil was "running the risk of being red-faced in the way it is managing the World Cup".

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Brazil’s government plans a “name and shame” approach to accelerate the country’s preparations for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro


The Financial Times reported that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will introduce the system to put pressure on various levels of government to maintain adequate progress in implementing projects.
Miriam Belchior, Brazil’s Minister of Planning, told the newspaper: “When you publish the information you make all of those implementing the projects responsible because they are exposed if there is a delay.”
Belchior added: “Our idea is to have a joint evaluation with the federal, state and municipal governments. This first meeting is to discuss the situation and how we’re going to do it, how we’re going to ensure it (the World Cup planning) is done in time.”
There have been concerns over the rate of preparations ahead of Brazil’s two upcoming mega-events, particularly with regard to the World Cup in just over three years’ time.
Brazil will spend US$13.3 billion on preparations in 12 cities for the World Cup, while the Olympics budget will be $2.8 billion. Henrique Meirelles, the respected former central bank governor, was appointed last week to lead the country’s Olympic Public Authority for the 2016 Games.

World Cup may have goal-line technology

The goal that wasn't..Frank Lampard strike in England's round of 16
clash against Germany in world cup 2010 was controversially

World soccer boss Joseph Blatter expects goal-line technology to be in place for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
"I believe we will have a system in 2012 which allows us to say whether it was a goal or not. And this system will then be introduced for the 2014 World Cup," FIFA president Blatter said in an interview with French TF1 television broadcast on Sunday.
The ruling body FIFA has been reluctant to bring modern technology into football to help referees. But a growing number of players, referees and officials want technology to help determine whether a ball has crossed the line or not, via video evidence or a chip in the ball.
The issue is being re-assessed because a clear England goal in the round of 16 match with Germany at the 2010 World Cup was not given by match officials.
"To avoid what the English have (named) a flagrant injustice, the discussion had to be re-opened, and that is what we did," Blatter told TF1.
FIFA decided earlier this month to delay a decision on goal-line technology to allow further testing of chip balls and goal cameras.
A decision is now expected in March 2012 from the International Football Association Board which oversees the laws of the game.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Europe to maintain qualification format

The Executive Committee of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has announced its wish to maintain the current format of the European Zone qualifying competition for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil. Similarly to qualifying for South Africa 2010, the 53 member associations will be split into nine groups, with eight groups consisting of six teams and one consisting of five.
The nine group winners will qualify directly for the finals in Brazil, while the eight runners-up will each contest a two-legged play-off tie to determine the remaining four qualifiers. A total of 13 European teams will take part in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the same amount as in 2010.
The approved qualification format must still be ratified by the FIFA Executive Committee, which will convene in Zurich at the end of May. The qualification format forms the basis of the qualifying draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, which will take place on 30 July 2011.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

43 in the fray for 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifiers

Kuala Lumpur: AFC has announced the qualification format for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers on Wednesday. 

Forty-three teams have entered the fray to grab four automatic and an inter-continental playoff berths.

In the first round, the 16 lowest ranked teams will be divided into eight groups for home-and-away matches on June 29 and July 3, 2011. 

Eight winners from the first round will join 22 higher ranked teams in the second round where the teams will be divided into 15 groups for home-and-away matches on July 23 and 28.

The 15 winners from the second round will join top five direct entrants in the third round where they will be divided into five groups of four teams each. 
The top two teams from each group will make it to Round 4. The third round will be played from September 2, 2011, to February 29, 2012.

The 10 qualified teams in the fourth round will be divided into two groups of five teams each and top two teams from each group will gain automatic berths in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. 

If Japan make it to the fourth round, they will be placed on Position 5 in their group in order not to play on June 18, 2013, to felicitate their participation in the FIFA Confederations Cup to be held from June 16 to 20, 2013. 

Two third-placed teams will play in Round 5 to determine Asia’s representative in the inter-continental playoff.

The fourth round will be played from June 3, 2012, to June 18, 2013, while the playoff between the third-placed teams will be played on September 6 and 10, 2013. 

The inter-continental playoff will be played on October 15 and November 19, 2013.

The seeding for the draw, to be held on March 30, will be based on the rankings from 2010 FIFA World Cup and its Asian qualifiers. 

Teams ranked from 1-5 will participate in the qualifiers from Round 3, teams ranked 6-27 (22 teams) will participate from Round 2 and the teams ranked 28-43 (16) will play the first round.


1. Japan, 2. Korea Republic, 3. Australia, 4. DPR Korea, 5. Bahrain, 6. Saudi Arabia, 7. Iran, 8. Qatar, 9. Uzbekistan, 10. UAE, 11. Syria, 12. Oman, 13. Jordan, 14. Iraq, 15. Singapore, 16. China, 17. Kuwait, 18. Thailand, 19. Turkmenistan, 20. Lebanon, 21. Yemen, 22. Tajikistan, 23. Hong Kong, 24. Indonesia, 25. Kyrgyzstan, 26. Maldives, 27. India, 28. Malaysia, 29. Afghanitsan, Cambodia, 31. Nepal, 32. Bangladesh, 33. Sri Lanka, Vietnam, 35. Mongolia, 36. Pakistan, 37. Palestine, 38. Timor Leste, 39. Macau, 40. Chinese Taipei, Myanmar, 42. Laos, Philippines.


Round 1: June 29 and July 3, 2011
Round 2: July 23 and July 28, 2011
Round 3: September 2, September 6, October 11, November 11, November 15, 2011 and February 29, 2012
Round 4: June 3, June 8, June 12, September 11, October 16, November 14, 2012, March 26, June 4, June 11, June 18, 2013
Round 5: September 6 and September 10, 2013
Round 6 (inter-continental playoff): October 15 and November 19, 2013

Monday, March 21, 2011

Uefa retains 2010 World Cup qualifying format for 2014

Uefa will use the same format to decide which 13 European nations qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as it employed for the 2010 tournament.
The same 53 European countries which played in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers will compete in nine groups, with the winners of each going to South America.
The eight best runners-up will be drawn in two-legged play-offs to determine the other four qualifying nations.
The preliminary draw for the 2014 World Cup is scheduled for 30 July in Brazil.
Europe will have its lowest share of teams at the World Cup since the inaugural event in 1930 when only four travelled to a 13-nation tournament in Uruguay.
At the 1994 World Cup in the United States, the last to feature 24 countries, 13 European teams played.
That number increased to 15 out of 32 teams four years later with 14 going through the qualifying process while France qualified automatically as hosts.
In 2002, defending champions France again qualified automatically, to ensure 15 European nations were present in Japan and South Korea.
However, Europe was reduced to 13 qualifiers for the 2006 World Cup with hosts Germany taking up a 14th spot.
Defending champions are no longer guaranteed a spot, so 2010 World Cup winners Spain will join 52 other nations who will be split into eight groups of six teams and one group of five.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the executive committee of European football's governing body.
Uefa has also approved recommendations on corruption and match fixing to "establish a network of integrity officers around Europe involving all national associations and on fostering collaboration with state authorities".
Meanwhile, Uefa secretary general Gianni Infantino reiterated that the Bosnian federation would be suspended from April if it did not cut its ethnic-based three-member presidency to one.
Uefa and world governing body Fifa have given the Bosnian federation until the end of March to do so or face suspension.

Ex-Im Bank announces financing for Brazilian FIFA-related projects

By Xinhuanet

RIO DE JANEIRO, March 21 (Xinhua) -- President of the U.S. Export-Import Bank Fred Hochberg announced on Monday a financing of 1 billion U.S. dollars for Brazilian companies involved in projects for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. The money must be used to purchase products made by U.S. companies.
According to Hochberg, Brazil is one of nine countries the Bank considered priorities for investments, but also a country in which the Bank's operations evolve at a very slow pace.
Hochberg hoped the new financing serves as a beginning of a period of faster growth for Ex-Im Bank's operations in Brazil.
"This should be only the beginning, so that the financing to Brazilian companies reach a higher level," he said.
On Sunday, in a speech in Rio's Municipal theater, U.S. President Barack Obama said his country intends to help Brazil in the projects for the games.
"We need world-class infrastructures, which is why U.S. companies want to help you build and prepare this city for an Olympic success," he said.
Besides the financing for the Cup and the Summer Olympics, the Ex-Im Bank will release a 2 billion U.S. dollar credit to Brazil's state-controlled oil and gas giant Petrobras to purchase products from U.S. companies as well.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Asian Zone to play preliminary round for Brazil 2014


Asia will begin the race to the FIFA World Cup 2014™. Ahead of the Preliminary Draw in Brazil on 30 July 2011, teams from the Asian continent will contest a preliminary round of matches. The draw for this first round takes place on 30 March 2011 at AFC House in Kuala Lumpur.
The first round will consist of seven home-and-away series, featuring the 14 lowest ranked teams in Asia. The winners of these series will then proceed to a second round.
The draw will take into account the new rankings in the Asian Confederation. These rankings are based on the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa finals as well as the Asian qualifying rounds for the main tournament. The final number of entries was confirmed by FIFA, whereby all teams entered the qualifiers save Bhutan and Guam, who declined the invitation, and Brunei Darussalam, who are still suspended.
Newly crowned Asian champions Japan are the top-ranked team, followed in second place by Korea Republic. Both these sides reached the Round of 16 of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.Australia and DPR Korea - the two other Asian teams that played in the 2010 FIFA World Cup - and 2010 FIFA World Cup Asian play-off participants Bahrain round out the top five.
Brunei DS, who are currently suspended by FIFA, are the only team not ranked among AFC’s 46 Member Associations.
Rankings for the FIFA World Cup 2014 Asian Qualifiers Round 1
1. Japan,
2. Korea Republic,
3. Australia,
4. DPR Korea,
5. Bahrain,
6. Saudi Arabia,
7. Iran,
8, Qatar,
9. Uzbekistan,
10. UAE,
11. Syria,
12. Oman,
13. Jordan,
14. Iraq,
15. Singapore,
16, China,
17, Kuwait,
18. Thailand,
19. Turkmenistan,
20. Lebanon,
21, Yemen,
22. Tajikistan,
23. Hong Kong,
24. Indonesia,
25. Kyrgyzstan,
26. Maldives,
27. India,
28. Malaysia,
29-30, Afghanistan, Cambodia,
31. Nepal,
32. Bangladesh,
33-34. Sri Lanka, Vietnam,
35. Mongolia,
36. Pakistan,
37. Palestine,
38. Timor Leste,
39. Macau,
40-41. Chinese Taipei, Myanmar,
42-43. The Philippines, Laos

Suspended: Brunei DS
Not participating: Bhutan, Guam.