With the 10 South American Countries due to play the next round of Qualifying matches in anticipation of the 2002 World Cup this week, (18th & 19th July) FIFA the World Governing body have shelved plans to stage two 'Mini-World Cups' with the Korean and Japanese winners meeting in the final at Yokohama in Japan as once envisaged.
According to Norman Kong, International Media Manager for the Japan Organising Committee, the new plan will require the 8 runners-up from the 1st group stages in both Japan and Korea having to cross over and play their 2nd round games in the neighbouring Country. Only the 8 group winners will remain in the Country where they began the Tournament.
Originally it was suggested that the 32 qualifying countries would be split into 2 pools of 16 with one pool based in Japan and one in Korea. To cut down on tiring long journeys between the co-hosting Countries it was proposed that each group of 16 would play its own tournament, remaining in either Japan or Korea, with the winners in each Country then meeting in Yokohama to decide the 2002 World Cup Champions. This system would also benefit supporters who intend making the long journey to the Far East.
However Mr Kong, speaking at a reception hosted by the 2 co-hosting Countries during the Euro 2000 Championships, said that while consideration had been given to this proposal it would be dropped in favour of a revised programme which will see 16 teams start in Japan and 16 in Korea, each split into 4 groups of 4. While the 4 group winners in each Country will have an advantage by remaining where they started, the 4 runners-up in Japan will cross to Korea and the 4 group runners-up in Korea will cross into Japan and play the 2nd round knockout matches which will then see 8 teams advance to the quarter-finals.
Speaking in Zurich from the FIFA Headquarters this week, spokesman Andreas Herren said that he could not confirm the revised arrangement but that it was likely. A firm decision will be known after July 31st, he maintained. Discussions between FIFA and the 2 Organising Countries are still taking place, he said.
Added travelling for some of the 32 qualifying countries could also result following an announcement this week that FIFA President Sepp Blatter will meet with North and South Korean officials during the forthcoming Olympic Games in Sydney, to discuss the prospects of 2-3 games being staged in North Korea.
With the Chilean and Argentine Presidents exchanging ideas over the possibility of a joint bid to stage the 2010 World Cup, the enormity of the infra