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WCQ: FIFA ambiguity leaves Egypt in the dark
Egypt’s World Cup qualifying Pot 1 fate remains uncertain thanks to opaque, changing information from FIFA.
Though Sunday’s 1-1 draw between Kenya and Tanzania brought the answer into somewhat clearer focus, uncertainty surrounding the release date of a “special” FIFA ranking is keeping fans and the teams themselves guessing.
In short, Egypt’s chances don’t look good. If both they and Tunisia win their final 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers, it is likely the Carthage Eagles that will end up in Pot 1.
Assuming wins for both, the Pot 1 ticket will ultimately be decided by which day FIFA chooses to release the “special” African ranking it unexpectedly announced in April.
FIFA says it will be released June 8-10. A June 8 or 9 release would favor Tunisia, while a June 10 release would favor Egypt. Again, that assumes an Egypt win over Tanzania and a Tunisia victory over Djibouti in AFCON qualifiers.
FIFA typically releases its regular monthly ranking on Thursdays. If it sticks to that pattern, June 9 may be the day, although it’s anyone’s guess given the association’s erraticism.
This table from our friends at We Global Football tells the story:
— We Global Football (@We_Global) May 30, 2016
As you can see, it’s agonizingly close, and the odds favor Tunisia despite the fact that Egypt will be Africa’s fifth ranked team in FIFA’s regular June ranking.
It’s unclear what FIFA’s objective is with the “special” ranking and lack of transparency surrounding the release date. What is clear, however, is that Egypt is the team most adversely affected by it.
There is no word on when FIFA will clarify the date. Perhaps it wants to wait to see the results of forthcoming AFCON qualifiers, hoping the results will render the issue moot. Even so, the question of why FIFA suddenly decided to institute an off-schedule ranking – just days after Egypt’s March 29 win over Nigeria assured it would rank fifth in Africa in June’s FIFA World Ranking – will remain.
UPDATE: Egypt assistant coach Mahmoud Fayez claimed on Monday that friendlies outside of the June World Rankings window would not be part of FIFA’s “special” ranking criteria for Pot 1 seedings. According to Fayez, Egypt simply must beat Tanzania to land in Pot 1.
“We have to beat Tanzania on June 4 to keep our place in Pot 1 of the continental ranking,” he told reporters.
The confusion grows, and underscores the lack of transparency with which FIFA has operated.