Europe faces a World Cup ambush from the rest of the world at next Tuesday’s FIFA executive in Madrid.

The Asian, South American, Australian and Carribbean allies of president Sepp Blatter want to capitalise on returning him to power at Congress in Seoul last June. The price they have all set is an increase in guaranteed places at the World Cup finals in Germany in 2006.

That could mean UEFA – which led opposition to Blatter’s re-election – losing four places at the finals.

Jack Warner, one of the closest allies of Blatter and president of the Central, Caribbean and North American confederation, said: “I know most of the other confederations are pressing their cases for additional places but I also believe that none has more call than ours. We had three teams in Korea and Japan, two reached the second round, the United States reached the quarter-finals and Costa Rica failed to qualify for the second stage only on goal difference.”

Asia wants promotion from fiveteams instead of four, South America wants six instead of five and Oceania wants a guaranteed single place. Africa is ready to stick with five which would leave only 11 for Europe.

In Korea and Japan Europe had 14 places plus holders France. From 2006 the holders, now Brazil, do not qualify automatically for the finals.
By Keir Radnedge