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World Cup 2006 expansion


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Tuesday, June 17, 2003

S. America says proposed schedule wouldn't be too long


RIO DE JANEIRO -- South America has dismissed concerns that a 36-team World Cup would be too long, saying that its proposal for the 2006 tournament would require only three more days than the 2002 championship.

"Our proposal would require 34 days, compared to 31 days for the 2002 World Cup and 33 days for 1998," South American Football Confederation (CSF) spokesman Nestor Benitez told Reuters by telephone from Asuncion on Tuesday.

South America suggested increasing the number of teams at the World Cup after having its quota of places at Germany in 2006 cut to four to accommodate a direct slot for Oceania and an extra place for either CONCACAF or Asia.

FIFA said it would consider the request and asked the CSF to come up with a plan for a 36-team tournament.

The CSF draft, a copy of which was sent to Reuters on Tuesday, proposes 15 places to Europe compared to the 13 for the 32-team tournament, five each for Africa, Asia and South America, four for CONCACAF and one for Oceania.

Hosts Germany would get the 36th place automatically.

The 36-teams would be divided into nine groups of four with the winners and the five second-placed teams with the best records qualifying directly for the second round.

The remaining four second-placed teams would then play off for the last two places.

The CSF said that there would be two rest days between the end of the first round and the playoffs. The second round would start the day after the playoffs and would be played over four days with the playoff winners in action again on the last day of second round matches.

The CSF draft also avoids splitting the draw into two halves -- a practice which at the last World Cup resulted with Brazil and Turkey meeting in the first round group stage and again in the semifinals and also prevented the possibility of a Brazil-Argentina final.

"In the last World Cup, it was impossible for any one of Brazil, Argentina, France or England to meet in the final, no matter whether they finished first or second in their group," said the draft.

"This would be avoided with this scheme.

"Furthermore, we would avoid opponents from the same group meeting again before the final, which was the case of Brazil and Turkey in the last World Cup."

Benitez said that Argentine Football Association (AFA) Julio Grondona and Brazilian Football Confederation (CSF) president Ricardo Teixeira will travel to Europe at the weekend to promote their plan.

FIFA's executive committee will decide at its meeting in Paris on June 28 whether to accept the South American proposal.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter is among the sceptics.

"I would like someone to explain to me how we could deal with 36 teams in fair and clean manner," he said in Paris on Tuesday. "We could not avoid having groups with only three teams in the first round of the championship."

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