THE chief executive of South Africa’s World Cup organising committee has admitted he is desperate for Portugal and Argentina to qualify for the finals. Danny Jordaan says the showpiece tournament would lose some of its shine if the marquee players of both nations, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, were not to appear.His comments, in an interview with CNN, will infuriate the smaller countries, particularly those in Europe such as the Republic of Ireland, who believe FIFA is giving unfair help to more established nations.Two weeks ago FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced that the draw for the European play-offs next month would be seeded, according to FIFA rankings. This will ensure that Russia, France and, in all probability, Portugal, would be seeded and therefore avoid each other in the two-legged ties, which are scheduled for 14 and 18 November.Ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, probably Ukraine and Slovakia or Slovenia will almost certainly be unseeded and run a greater risk of drawing a difficult opponent. The draw had been expected to be open.Jordaan, who is also a member of the FIFA World Cup organising committee and has served the governing body in previous capacities, said for his native South Africa to enjoy a successful World Cup it would need ”world-class infrastructure and world-class teams”.He was asked how important it was for Portugal to qualify. ”Very, very important,” he replied. ”We have the big teams … England is in, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands – but we need also the best players in the world and Portugal, with Ronaldo, and Argentina, with Messi, [have] two of the most exciting players. They came one and two in the FIFA world player of the year.”Ireland are assured a place in the play-off draw in Zurich next Monday but their hopes of qualifying for a first major tournament since the 2002 World Cup have been undermined by the seeding. ”We have some marquee players ourselves,” said goalkeeper Shay Given.”We deserve to finish second in our group and Russia do too, Portugal as well, all these teams, but … why should these teams get preferential treatment?” Guardian
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