Please do not misunderstand me. I am as excited as anyone at Africa having two teams in the FIFA World Cup™ Second Round for the first time ever. Algeria and Nigeria have done the continent immensely proud and it is befitting that the highest-ranked African team as well as the Africa Cup of Nations champions are the two flying the flag high in Brazil.
Immediately the fervent call from the continent is for FIFA to give us more teams at the World Cup. Stop right there. Upon closer inspection the African argument remains a weak one. Out of fifteen group matches at Brazil 2014, there were only three wins by the continent’s teams to go with the four draws and eight defeats. No one at FIFA is going to push for an additional African team at Russia 2018.
At least the Super Eagles and Desert Foxes have done enough to stop the sport’s controlling body from taking a team away from Africa. If anything CONCACAF and CONMEBOL are the two confederations who have strong arguments for more teams. Three of the four North American teams reached the Last 16 while South America has contributed five teams for the second straight World Cup. UEFA and AFA are the two organisations that should be looking over their shoulders.
Europe has contributed only six of its 13 teams to the Last 16 in Brazil and it was the same story in South Africa in 2010. Africa is on a steady rise in spite of the unflattering statistics and Asia seems to be up and down with two Last 16 representatives in 2002 and 2010 but none at all in 2006 and 2014.
As it stands Europe has 13 teams at the World Cup, North America 3.5, South America 4.5, Africa 5, Asia 4.5 and Oceania 0.5. There is an additional place allocated to the host nation and the half-berths represent teams entering inter-continental play-offs.
I would restructure it as follows: Europe would have 12, North America 4, South America 6, Africa 5, Asia 3.5 and Oceania 0.5 plus the one spot for the hosts. Africa and Asia can kick and scream all they like about having more than 50 countries (like Europe) but only having four or five (unlike the Europeans) at the tournament. FIFA must do whatever it must to strike that balance between the best teams in the world and a truly representative event. There are currently no Asian teams in the top 32 in the FIFA rankings; which although is flawed (like any ranking system), is the only real yardstick in the current environment.
All I have really done is guarantee North America and South America the number of teams they have had in Brazil and force Asia to play-off against an Oceania team to win their fourth place at the tournament. All this has been done while taking out a European team. What are the chances of it happening? Well not high because how are you going to convince Asia and Europe, who make up about half of FIFA’s members together, to agree to sacrificing a World Cup place each?