OFC: The Oceania Football Confederation announced today that it will combine the OFC Nations Cup with the 2006 OFC World Cup Qualifying preliminary competition starting in early 2004.
The acting OFC president, Tautulu Roebeck, explained that the OFC has been working together with FIFA for the past months in devising the new format which will reduce the financial burden for the participating countries with a busy competitions calendar anticipated next year.
Under the new format:
* The top ranking OFC countries, Australia and New Zealand, will receive a bye for the first stage with the remaining ten countries playing off in two group tournaments for four places to the second stage.
* The second stage will see Australia, New Zealand and the four qualifying teams involved in a round robin tournament played at a yet to be determined venue.
* The winner and runner up from the second stage will meet in the OFC Nations Cup final in late 2004. The winner of the OFC Nations Cup final will represent Oceania at both the FIFA Confederations Cup and AFC-OFC Challenge Cup in 2005.
* The winner and runner up from the second stage will meet again in late 2005 to decide the Oceania champion to playoff in the final stage of the 2006 World Cup qualifying process.
“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,” said Mr Roebeck.
“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.”
Mr Roebeck will be attending the World Cup preliminary draw in Frankfurt where a decision will also be made on the format of the final playoff involving the OFC champion and the qualifiers representing CONCACAF (North, Central America and Caribbean), AFC (Asia) and CONMEBOL (South America). The four confederations with half berths will vie for two full berths to the FIFA World Cup Germany in 2006.
Full details on the new format for the 2004 OFC Nations Cup and 2006 OFC World Cup preliminary qualifying will be released on approval of the dates and venues at the next OFC executive committee meeting in Auckland on 5/6 January 2004.