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Oceania lose out as Fifa says no to 36 teams

Paris, June 28 (Reuters): Fifa’s Executive Committee has rejected a proposal to expand the 2006 World Cup finals to 36 teams, but to do so backtracked on its promise to give Oceania an automatic place in the tournament.

The South American confederation (CONMEBOL) had proposed the increase from the current 32 teams after its allocation was reduced by “half a slot” — a place in a play-off — to give Oceania an automatic finals place.

However, to placate the South Americans Fifa agreed Saturday to return their half-place at the expense of Oceania, a decision that led to the furious Oceania delegation storming out.

The CONMEBOL proposal was voted out by a majority of 23-1 — Oceania being the only dissenting voice.

However, with South America having lost a further qualifying place for the 2006 tournament in Germany after Fifa ruled last year that defending champions Brazil would not get automatic qualification, Fifa officials were anxious to please them.

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