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 Tuesday, 17 December, 2002, 12:54 GMT
Oceania gets World Cup spot
Fifa president Sepp Blatter
Blatter favoured an automatic spot for Oceania
Oceania has been granted an automatic place at the 2006 World Cup, a Fifa spokesman has confirmed.

As a result, Europe and South America will lose what Fifa describe as "half a place".

That means that one less nation from each continent will qualify automatically. Instead, they will have to go through a play-off to make the finals.

The African confederation, Caf, continues to have five places while Asia have four-and-a-half and Concacaf, the North and Central American Confederation, gets three-and-a-half.

Where the World Cup places go
Europe: 14
(inc hosts Germany)
Africa: 5
Conmebol: 4
Asia: 4
Concacaf: 3
Oceania: 1

All of the continents with "half a place" will have to send one of their nations into a play-off against a team from another region.

In the past the winners of Oceania's qualification group have had to go through a play-off in order to reach the tournament.

For example, Australia finished top of the Oceania section in each of the last two qualifying campaigns.

But the Socceroos lost in play-offs to Iran ahead of France 98 and Uruguay leading up to the 2002 finals in South Korea and Japan.

I think it's fantastic, the whole region will benefit in the long term

Australia coach Frank Farina

The difference now is that Australia, were they to win the Oceania group again, would go through to the 2006 World Cup in Germany automatically.

It means the region will definitely have a representative at football's showpiece event for the first time since New Zealand made it to Spain in 1982.

The decision was made during a Fifa executive committee meeting in Madrid on Tuesday.

There are two extra places are up for grabs at the 2006 finals, with Germany the only guaranteed participant as solo hosts.

As part of the re-structuring the holders - who previously went through to the next tournament automatically - will now have to qualify for the first time.

In this case that is Brazil - who knew they would have to qualify ahead of their victory in Japan earlier this year as the rule change was made public going into the tournament.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
 BBC Sport's Nigel Adderley
"Oceania hasn't had a World Cup finalist since 1982"
 Socceroos boss Frank Farina
"It's wonderful news"
 HOME NATIONS
 HOME NATIONS

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