Europe deserves another World Cup place, says UEFA

VIENNA (Reuters) – Europe deserves at least one more place at the World Cup and is optimistic that will be granted for the 2018 tournament in Russia, European soccer’s governing body UEFA said on Monday.

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UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino addresses a news conference after a UEFA Executive Committee meeting ahead of the annual congress in Vienna March 23, 2015. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

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UEFA was allocated 13 slots at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and wants a 14th next time around, in addition to Russia who qualify automatically as hosts.

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“I think there is a big chance that we will have more than 13 because if you look at it objectively, based on facts, 19 of the top 32-ranked associations are European,” UEFA secretary general Gianni Infantino told reporters.

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“The winners of the last three World Cups were three (different) European teams, so I think it’s absolutely objective and fair to be asking for one more place only.”

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“We could ask for more than one (extra), but one would already be a good sign that… at the end of the day, to crown the world champions you must have the best teams.”

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FIFA’s executive committee will hold an extraordinary meeting on May 30 to decide how many places each continent will get at the World Cup.

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South America currently has 4.5 places, CONCACAF 3.5, Asia 4.5, Oceania 0.5 and Africa 5 while the hosts qualify automatically.

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A half place means one of the region’s teams must take part in a two-leg playoff with a side from another continent to qualify.

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Infantino was not discouraged by Europe’s performance at the 2014 World Cup where, although Germany won the tournament, eight of the continent’s 13 representatives fell at the group stage.

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“I think South America certainly also deserves the number of teams they have in the competition,” he said.

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“You can argue whatever way you want but then there are facts.

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“It’s not like the Olympic Games where the importance is to participate, in football the important thing is to win and the sporting results are clearly for Europe whichever you want to argue it.

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“I don’t know if FIFA is trying to reduce the places of the European countries, although I don’t think so,” he added.

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“I cannot imagine a World Cup with less than 13 European teams… The absolute minimum is the status quo.”

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Infantino added that the UEFA executive committee had decided that for the 2018 World Cup, the European qualifiers would consist of seven groups of six teams and two of five.

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