UEFA to decide format for 2014 World Cup qualifiers, as 53 teams chase 13 tickets to Brazil
By The Associated Press (CP)
NYON, Switzerland — The qualifying path for European teams to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil will be discussed by UEFA's executive committee later this month.
World Cup organizer FIFA confirmed last week that Europe retains the same 13-nation qualification quota it had for the past two tournaments.
UEFA said Thursday that its ruling panel will consider the qualifiers format at a March 20-21 meeting in Paris.
Europe is likely to enter the same 53 countries which played in the 2010 World Cup preliminaries, when nine group winners gained direct entry to the finals in South Africa. The eight best runners-up were then drawn in home-and-away playoff ties to decide four remaining slots.
The preliminary draw for the 2014 World Cup finals, which will feature 32 teams, is scheduled July 30 in a Brazilian city yet to be decided.
Europe now has its lowest share of teams at the World Cup since the inaugural 1930 event, when four travelled to a 13-nation tournament in Uruguay.
Thirteen European teams played in the 1994 World Cup hosted by the United States which was the last with 24 countries.
Europe provided 15 of the 32 teams in 1998 and 2002 — 14 of which went through qualifying while France qualified automatically as the '98 hosts. It also qualified as defending champion four years later, when Japan and South Korea co-hosted. Defending champions are no longer guaranteed a place.
In 2006, Europe was reduced to 13 qualifiers but host Germany was a 14th UEFA representative.
UEFA's executive committee meets on the eve of its annual congress, where Michel Platini will be confirmed unopposed for a second four-year term as president. The role gives Platini status as a FIFA vice-president.
A further three of UEFA's eight delegates to FIFA's 24-man ruling body will be confirmed: Angel Maria Villar of Spain, Germany's Theo Zwanziger and Jim Boyce of Northern Ireland. Boyce takes a seat that is rotated among the four British football federations.
Northern Ireland is a candidate to host the 2012 UEFA Congress, UEFA said. Macedonia and Turkey are the other candidates in a poll of executive members.