Chung: Pacific Games not pathway to FIFA World Cup

Normal, Sports

The National – Wednesday, July 6, 2011

PNG will use the Pacific Games in Noumea, New Caledonia, next month as warm-up preparations for the FIFA World Cup and the Confederation Cup.
PNG Football Association president David Chung said the Pacific Games were no longer part of the qualification process for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the women’s Olympic football tournament in London next year.
The Oceania Football Confederation had initially planned to use the football tournaments at the games next month as part of the qualification process as the case in Samoa four years earlier.
However, uncertainty surrounding the participation of Guam, a member of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), in the respective football tournaments has left the OFC executive committee with no other option but to scale back its involvement.
At this stage, Chung said Samoa and Tonga had officially pulled out of the Pacific Games in both men’s and women’s soccer competitions.
“We have no further news from other countries on whether they might be participating or not in this tournament,” a disappointed Chung said.
OFC general secretary Tai Nicholas admitted it was disappointing not to be able to use the Pacific Games as a qualifying stage.
“FIFA have been very clear that they cannot approve a FIFA qualifying event where non-OFC members are participating,” Nicholas said.
“But the Pacific Games will remain a premier event for the Pacific Island nations. Eleven men’s teams and 10 women’s teams are still going to the games and will use the matches as preparation for the upcoming FIFA qualifying events.”
Nicholas said the confederation had to look at alternative options for the World Cup qualification process and a new four-stage format had been decided upon and approved by FIFA.
The first stage will see the four lowest-ranked OFC member associations (based on the FIFA/Coca-Cola ranking and other sporting reasons) take part in a tournament based on a league system from Nov 21-26.
The countries involved will be American Samoa, the Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga, and the top finisher will advance to the second stage, joining the remaining seven OFC teams that received a bye in the first stage.
Stage two will see the revival of the OFC Nations Cup where eight countries – namely Fiji, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Vanuatu and the winner of stage one – will take part in a tournament based on a league system with semi-finals and a final.
The tournament is scheduled for June 1-12 and the winner of the final will go on to represent OFC in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.