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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES

FIFA President Blatter Wants Oceania in World Cup

September 21, 2000|GRAHAME L. JONES

MELBOURNE, Australia — Joseph "Sepp" Blatter, the president of FIFA, said Wednesday that he favors allowing a representative from the Oceania region direct entry to the World Cup starting in 2006.

At present, the region--which includes Australia, New Zealand and several smaller South Pacific countries--sends its qualifying winner into a playoff against a South American qualifying runner-up.

Blatter wants the winner to qualify directly for the World Cup.

"I am optimistic that a team from Oceania will enter the 2002 World Cup by sporting means [if it defeats South America's fifth-best team] and in 2006 by direct entry," Blatter said.

The change, if approved by FIFA's Executive Committee, could mean Europe losing one of its World Cup places.

The head of international soccer's ruling body also said he foresees the World Cup being rotated among the six continents, including Oceania.

"We have just seen 20,000 in the rain to witness Kuwait against the United States in the Olympic tournament," he said. "You can hold the Under-17 World Championship, the World Youth Championship [Under-20], or the Women's World Cup to help popularize football in a country where the game is developing, but you must hold the World Cup finals in a country where football has a strong presence."

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