The world cup is finally over. Brazil was a class apart and they deserved to win. Though the Germans took the game to the opposition, they lacked the magic that the Brazilians are distinguished for. This world cup saw many countries outside Europe emerge as strong football nations. And it wont be long before an Asian or an African team wins the football world cup.
India too can make it to the big league, taking a leaf from success story of the Korean football team. Though the Koreans didnt win the world cup, they were amazing in the way they played and so was Japan. Indian football needs a shot in the arm. Its not at all unrealistic for India to reach the next Worldcup finals to be held in Germany in 2006.
The governing body of the football worldwide is FIFA(Federation Internationale de Football Association). The world of football is divided into six confederations based on Zones. The six zones consists of Asia, Europe (Russia comes into this zone), North & Central America with Caribbean Islands, South America, Africa and Oceania (countries near Australia).
The Asian zone comes under Asian Football Confederation.. Teams for the Worldcup are selected after the preliminary matches conducted by this confederation. The AFC holds the qualifying matches and the process of reaching the Worldcup finals is a bit tedious for the Asian teams.
The 40 teams from Asia are divided into 10 groups of four teams each. Each team plays against all the other teams in their group twice. The winners of each group go the second round, the losers go back home. The second round is divided into two groups of five teams each. The winners of these two groups qualify for the World cup., whereas the runners up of the third round play among them two games (home and away) and the winner goes to Euro/Asian playoff. Euro/Asian playoff is where they play similar runners up from UEFA World cup qualifiers. The winner of the Euro/Asian playoff goes to the Worldcup. Just for records, this time it was between Ireland and Iran, and Ireland won the berth to the Worldcup.
From Europe, the teams are segregated into nine groups, the group winners going directly to Worldcup finals, the nine runners up and one team from the Asian qualifiers play, and the five winners go through to the world cup finals. The governing body dealing with European zone of football is UEFA (Union des Associations Europennes de Football)
South America and Oceania
Qualifying from South America and Oceania section is simple. South America has one league with 10 teams in it, the top four teams qualify for world cup finals, and the fifth team in the table plays with the winner of the Oceania group. Oceania has two groups of 5 teams each, where the group winners play each other to qualify for the play off with South American playoff team. South american football come under the purview of Conbemol(South American football confederation), and the Oceania teams come under OFC(Oceania Football confederation).
In Africa 50 teams play and the top 25 teams are selected into 5 groups, where the group winners qualify for the world cup. The governing body is CAF(confederation Africaine de football).
North and Central America
Qualifying games in this zone are a bit confusing. The matches are held in two groups. Caribbean Zone and Central American Zone. Caribbean zone has 3 groups and Central America have 2 groups, winners qualify for the semi-final round, and the runners up go for the play offs. One team of the Caribbean runners up play Canada, and the other two play the runners up from the Central America. And the winners go to semi-finals.
There are four automatic qualifiers into semi-final from America., Costa Rica, America, Jamaica and Mexico. These 12 teams play in 3 groups and the top two teams from each group go to the final round. And the top 3 teams from the final round qualify. The governing body is Concacaf(Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football).
In addition to these qualifiers, two other forms of qualifications also comes to play. 1. The host nation of the Worldcup finals is automatically qualified (which is being scrapped now) and 2. The winner of the last Worldcup automatically qualifies. The next world cup is just 4 years away and I will be closely watching the Indian football team, who in this Worldcup-qualifying matches lost in the first round itself. But I am sure, given time, training and support, soon India will also be in the Worldcup finals (fingers crossed!).