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Sep 29, 2009

Eight World Cup play-off qualifiers to be seeded

The eight teams in Europe's World Cup playoffs that could include the likes of former champions France and Germany will be seeded according to the rankings, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said on Tuesday.

There will also be a separate draw to determine which teams play the second legs at home, Blatter told a news conference after a FIFA executive committee meeting in Rio de Janeiro.

"We have decided on seeding the teams into two groups of four, taking the FIFA world rankings into account, with the top four in one pot and the others in another pot," Blatter said. The ranking will be that published on Oct. 16. "There will be a separate draw to decide home and away," he added of the two-legged ties to determine four extra European berths at the 2010 finals in South Africa.

There had speculation that the eight best second-placed teams in Europe's nine groups would all be thrown into one pot. So far, of Europe's 13 teams among the 32 that play in the finals only three have secured their places with next month's final two qualifiers to come: European champions Spain, England and Netherlands.

France, World Cup winners at home in 1998 and runners-up in the last tournament in Germany in 2006, are second in Group Seven, four points behind Serbia. Three-times world champions Germany are fighting it out with Russia for top place in Group Four. The Germans lead by one point.

Portugal, semi-finalists in 2006, are in danger of not even making it to the playoffs, thus denying the tournament of one of its chief attractions, Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese are third in Group One with 13 points, five less than leaders Denmark and two behind Sweden and they are level on points with fourth-placed Hungary.

Switzerland lead Group Two by three points from Greece and Latvia, and Slovakia head Group Three by five from Slovenia and Northern Ireland.

Bosnia are four points clear of Turkey, surprise semi-finalists in Asia in 2002, in the race for the playoff berth in Group Five which Spain, who have a maximum 24 points so far, have already won.

England's Group Six has Croatia and Ukraine vying to reach the playoffs while Ireland are four points behind leaders Italy, the reigning world champions, in Group Eight. Norway and Scotland are neck and neck in second place in Group Nine which was won by Netherlands with a perfect eight wins. With 10 points apiece they have less points than the other teams presently in the mix.

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