Oceania to cut costs on qualifiers
MELBOURNE, Nov 28 (Reuters) - The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) has announced it will combine next year's Nations Cup with the regional World Cup qualifiers to save money.
The OFC released a statement saying the decision to combine the two tournaments was devised to reduce the financial burden on the poorer participating countries.
'The proposal to merge the two competitions was discussed at the last OFC executive committee meeting in Doha in October and we have since been working together with FIFA to fit this in with the coordinated international match calendar,' acting OFC president Tautulu Roebeck said.
'The preliminary draw will be made in Frankfurt, Germany on 5 December and we hope to confirm dates at the next OFC executive committee meeting in Auckland in early January.'
Under the new format, the region's two highest ranked teams, Australia and New Zealand, will receive a bye for the first stage of competition with the remaining ten countries playing off in two group tournaments.
Two countries from each pool will join Australia and New Zealand in a six-team round-robin.
The top two teams will advance to the Nations Cup final from which the winner will represent Oceania at both the FIFA Confederations Cup and AFC-OFC Challenge Cup in 2005.
The teams will meet again in another playoff to decide who represents the region in the final stage of qualifying for the 2006 World Cup.
FIFA is expected to announce next month who the Oceania winner will have to play to reach the World Cup finals.