30 May 2015

Blatter may give NZ direct route to World Cups

6:29 pm on 30 May 2015

The chief executive of New Zealand Football Andy Martin is hopeful Oceania will get an automatic berth into future FIFA World Cups.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter was re-elected this morning and hinted in a speech he may upgrade South American and Oceania playoff places to full World Cup qualification slots.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter - pictured giving an interview on 15 May in Zurich.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter - pictured giving an interview on 15 May in Zurich. Photo: AFP

Under current rules, the top team in the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC), of which New Zealand is a part, has to win a two legged playoff against a team from another confederation to reach the World Cup.

New Zealand voted against Blatter's re-election and while disappointed with this morning's result, Martin said there appears to be a silver lining.

"He made a reference in his closing remarks of the need to rebalance the confederations and he made specific mention of OFC and the fact it's only got half a place for World Cup qualification."

"Tomorrow there is a FIFA meeting and the agenda item is World Cup places, so we could see a scenario following those comments whereby Oceania has direct entry into the World Cup," said Martin.

Since Australia left the Oceania Confederation in 2006 to join Asia, New Zealand has won the right to represent OFC in World Cup qaulification in 2010 and 2014.

In 2010, the All Whites beat Bahrain in the play-offs to reach the World Cup in South Africa.

Four years later, New Zealand were thrashed by Mexico and denied a place at the 2014 tournament in Rio.

Martin doesn't think New Zealand's vote against Blatter in Zurich will count against the possible creation of an automatic Oceania World Cup berth.

New Zealand Football CEO Andy Martin.

New Zealand Football CEO Andy Martin. Photo: Supplied

"I'd be very surprised if the fact we've been brave enough to stand up and vote for a change would make any difference to that."

"To give us a direct entry place in Oceania he needs to take places from other countries. It remains to be seen whether or not he chooses to take those from countries that have caused, in his eyes, a lot of the embarrasment and damage this week."

Several of the FIFA officals arrested in Switzerland this week represented Latin American countries, but South America's federation CONMEBOL says it has received assurances it will retain four automatic World Cup qualifying places for Russia 2018 plus its single playoff place.

"The re-elected (FIFA) president Sepp Blatter assured CONMEBOL president Juan Angel Napout that the quotas for the World Cup would not be touched," the organisation said in a statement after the Swiss incumbent won a fifth term.

South America, a small but powerful confederation in playing terms with nine World Cup titles to their credit, feared it might lose the playoff berth to another region.

"It's not just Blatter's word, it's Blatter's and that of all those who can vote," added Napout who succeeded Uruguayan Eugenio Figueredo last year.

Figueredo was one of seven top officials with world soccer's ruling body FIFA who were arrested on corruption charges.

Napout said last week he feared losing the playoff berth in the face of strong lobbying by CONCACAF, which governs football in North and Central America and the Caribbean, Africa and Asia, all regions with many more member nations than CONMEBOL.

The executive committee meeting to announce the qualifying berths for each confederation will be held at FIFA's Zurich headquarters on Saturday.