As expected, the Republic of Ireland have not been seeded for the World Cup playoffs — the four countries who have been are France, Portugal, Russia and Greece, who will each face one of Ireland, Bosnia, Slovenia and Ukraine.
Ireland’s manager, Giovanni Trapattoni, expressed his dismay: “This [World Cup] draw must be open. We must give the opportunity to everyone. I thought it was going to be an open draw and in the future, they have to think about the rankings and change the system. But business is business. The big teams command Uefa in the rankings table. At the moment, it is difficult to change but they must.”
As we reported here initially, FIFA’s decision to announce the seedings was poorly timed in the extreme. It should have been announced before the qualification campaign began, so as not to appear to be a last-ditch effort to assist the bigger teams struggling in qualification. We were quite scathing when the announcement was made last month.
But seeding the playoffs did, after all, follow 2006 precedent and I didn’t hear too many complaints then. The question is, should the principle of open draws should be applied to the entire World Cup or only the playoffs? There is a good argument that the latter should indeed be the case, as the qualification groups were seeded in the first place and smaller teams have thus by default had a tougher road to even get that far: seeding again for the playoffs is a further obstacle — but then so is seeding for the finals group stage itself following qualification. This thus seems to be a larger debate about the value and justification for seeding throughout the entire tournament. How much seeding should there be, and in which stages?
- D.C. United might be the big fish Baltimore hope to lure to seriously establish professional soccer in the city, but it looks like Crystal Palace’s USL offshoot will get their own stadium first, as plans for a 7,000 capacity venue in Caroll Camden are moving forward.
- Spain’s Anti-Violence Commission has banned the use by Barcelona of a video based on the movie 300 pumping up supporters ahead of this week’s clash with Sevilla.
- Andy Cole suggests England could do with a little less of their usual “institutional arrogance” if they are really going to compete for the World Cup title.
- Amy Lawrence of the Guardian looks at “Team America” (and gets smokebombs confused with flares) and their run to the World Cup finals. It’s a pretty positive, if completely fluffy piece.
- An issue we’ve been meaning to weigh in on is the controversy over black managers in England that has waged this week in the press, with the hot button of positive discrimination being repeatedly pushed. It’s not something we’d like to address in passing, but here is the latest, pretty sensible salvo on it from Gabby Logan. We’ll revisit this soon.
- That’s it from me for the week, apart from a photo daily coming up a little later — Richard Whittall will steer you through the weekend here, and I’ll be back on Monday morning, as long as the Fire don’t lose to New England on Saturday night. In which case, who knows what I’ll do.
The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.