Football: All Whites' World Cup path to change?

World Cup playoffs could become a thing of the past for the All Whites. Photo / Mark Mitchell
World Cup playoffs could become a thing of the past for the All Whites. Photo / Mark Mitchell

A new Fifa president may also bring a new World Cup qualification path for the All Whites.

Gianni Infantino was yesterday confirmed as successor to the disgraced Sepp Blatter and the 45-year-old's election could have ramifications for football in New Zealand.

The Swiss campaigned on a platform involving an expanded 40-team World Cup, which would potentially include a direct spot for the winners of the Oceania Football Confederation. The All Whites' path might even be adjusted in the existing 32-team tournament.

New Zealand Football president Deryck Shaw confirmed this country voted for Infantino and, while his plans to reform the world game's governing body was a key factor in the decision, an altered qualification path certainly played a part.

The OFC currently hold half a spot for the World Cup, which means qualification is determined by a two-leg playoff against a nation from another confederation.

But Infantino has suggested the Oceania champions might instead enter the final 12-team stage of Asian qualifying.

"The 40-spot World Cup is something to be looked at but that will require the consent of the new council, which replaces the [executive committe]," Shaw said. "The other thing that [Infantino] is looking at closely now is moving the half-spot that we have into Asia, so that's something that could happen relatively quickly."

That proposal has been raised in the past and would be a boon for NZF, given it would mean more meaningful games on these shores and, as a result, increased revenue and increased exposure to quality opposition.

But the move would likely face opposition from the Asia Football Confederation, given it would offer no tangible benefits to its nations. Oceania brings little to the broadcast table, increases the travel requirements for every country bar Australia and offers a potential banana skin to highly-fancied sides like Japan or South Korea.

"We only [just] had the election but that's something he's made a commitment to have a look at," Shaw said. "But there will be a lot of things that are ahead of that in his prioritisation around his work within Fifa."

- NZ Herald

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