Interesting article from the Bangkok Post about how confusing the 2010 African World Cup qualifiers are. As they put it, 'FIFA and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) are on course to score an own goal' with their qualifier rules.
Basically, there's a situation where South Africa may have to lose or draw to make it to the next round (weird, I know. Play along).
South Africa spokesman Sipho Nkumane said the situation was strange, to say the least. "It is a difficult situation. How can we tell our players that they are not allowed to win a game? We will have to look at all the permutations after our game against Nigeria and then see what we have to do. The same situation could, of course, also arise in other groups."
A FIFA spokesman said that they worked on the premise that all teams would have to win games to ensure that they finished first or second.
"Teams have to win their matches if they want to make sure of winning their groups or finishing second. If South Africa do not win their game against Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone beat Nigeria, then they will probably not finish second at all.
"We will have to see the results of all the games to know all the different possibilities," he said.
So how did this happen? Here's the South Africa scenario.
In Group 4 of the qualifiers, where South Africa is close to being knocked out of the African Cup of Nations (the World Cup qualifiers also serve as the 2010 African Cup of Nations qualifiers), the 2010 hosts could be in a situation where they'll be eliminated if they win their final game against Equatorial Guinea.
After drawing and losing to Sierra Leone, Bafana Bafana face a do-or-die game against Nigeria this weekend. If they fail to win, they will certainly be eliminated from the 2010 Nations Cup.
If they win, much will depend on the result of the other game between Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea.
A victory for Sierra Leone will all but guarantee an early exit for the 1996 African champions.
A draw or a victory for the visiting side from Equatorial Guinea will keep alive South Africa's chances of qualifying for the finals of the 2010 Nations Cup in Angola, on condition they do not win their final game in Equatorial Guinea.
South Africa, who are currently on four points behind the already- qualified Nigerians, would move to seven points should they win. Sierra Leone would remain on four or move to five if they lose or draw to Equatorial Guinea.
Equatorial Guinea would move to four points (with a draw) or six (with a victory).
South Africa then faces Equatorial Guinea in their final game and would finish second if they win that game. In that case, however, Equatorial Guinea would in all probability finish last in the group and the six points that South Africa secured against them would be scratched, leaving South Africa with four points - too few to advance as one of the best-eight second-placed teams.
If, however, South Africa do not win, Equatorial Guinea could finish third and South Africa keep the three or four points they secured against them and as a result could advance to the next round with six or seven points.
From the BBC, a guide to African qualifying ...
The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has detailed a complicated formula to determine which teams progress to the second qualifying group stage for the 2010 World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations.MY POV: I dunno about you, but my head hurts reading the above.
The 12 group winners in the first group phase and the eight best runners-up will advance to the second stage.
But a fair amount of mathematics will be required to discover those best runners-up.
One of the 12 groups has only three teams, and Caf wants to give the runners-up in that group a fair chance of qualifying.
So rather than simply looking at points gained and goal difference to determine the best second-placed teams, a re-calculation will take place.
The runners-up in Group 11, which has three teams will have their statistics unchanged.
But in the other groups, the points and goal difference that the second-placed teams had against the fourth-placed team will be erased.
These new totals will then be used to determine the eight best runners-up, using points gained and then goal difference, then goals scored.
Caf says that a play-off match will take place in November should there be a tie for the eighth best runners-up spot.
The 20 teams that qualify for the second group stage will be drawn in five groups of four teams.
The group winners qualify for the 2010 World Cup, but should hosts South Africa win a group, there will be a recalculation to determine the team that goes to the World Cup.
All results against South Africa would be erased and a new table calculated.
The first three teams in each group will qualify for the 2010 Nations Cup.
If Angola reach the second group stage, the three teams drawn in their group will automatically qualify for the Nations Cup.
How about we just wait and see what happens this weekend, OK??
Why couldn't they make this more straight forward? Yikes ...