31 Mar 2017

Sport: Oceania Football to benefit from proposed World Cup changes

12:31 pm on 31 March 2017

Oceania is set to get an automatic qualifying spot in an expanded 48-team FIFA World Cup format, which is proposed to come into effect in 2026.

The revamped tournament would include a guaranteed slot for Oceania for the first time, 16 places for Europe - up from 13 - and a six-team inter-zonal play-off tournament for two more spots.

Currently the winner of the Oceania confederation must play the fifth-placed South American side for a place at the tournament.

The All Whites celebrate a goal against Fijji in their Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier.

The All Whites celebrate a goal against Fijji in their Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

New Zealand Football chief executive Andy Martin said they've been lobbying for such changes for years.

"In context it's not a direct entry for New Zealand, we still have to win our competition but having to win our competition instead of playing against the fifth best team in South America is a better path for all the teams in Oceania.

"There is also a half place for a second team for Oceania to go through to a a qualifying competition, that will raise standards, hope and ambition in the region," Mr Martin said.

PNG celebrate their win over Tahiti.

PNG beat Tahiti this week to keep their 2018 World Cup dream alive. Photo: Massimo Colombini

New Zealand will play Tahiti, Papua New Guinea or Solomon Islands in the Oceania qualifying final later this year, while the number one ranked team in the world, Argentina, are ominously sitting in fifth place in South America, with star-man Lionel Messi suspended for their next three qualifying matches.

The proposals will be submitted to the FIFA Council at its next full meeting in Bahrain in May for a final decision.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs