Germans could pip England to seeding

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The Independent Online

England may have pipped Germany to an automatic place in the World Cup finals but the old order retains a certain obstinacy. When the draw is made for the 2002 tournament, Germany, if they survive their play-off against Ukraine, are likely to be seeded ahead of England.

England may have pipped Germany to an automatic place in the World Cup finals but the old order retains a certain obstinacy. When the draw is made for the 2002 tournament, Germany, if they survive their play-off against Ukraine, are likely to be seeded ahead of England.

As in 1998, seeding for the draw, which takes place in Busan on 1 December, is likely to depend on Fifa rankings and previous World Cup performance. England are ninth in the standings, three places ahead of Germany, but that may not be enough to counter-balance Germany's World Cup form. In the last three tournaments they have lifted the trophy once and reached the quarter-finals twice. England muster one semi-final, one second round appearance and a did-not-qualify.

With the holders, France, and joint-hosts South Korea and Japan seeded automatically, there are only five places available. Three of these will go to Argentina, Italy and, assuming they qualify, Brazil. One would have gone to the Netherlands.

In their absence the other two places are wide open, with contenders other than Germany and England including Portugal, Spain, Croatia, Paraguay, Mexico, Sweden, Romania and, especially as it is thought Fifa would like to have an African seed, Nigeria and Cameroon. Since all matches up to 17 November will count in the rankings, England can enhance their position with a good result against Sweden a week earlier. However, being a friendly, which are given less weight, even victory may not make up for being held at home by Greece.

With seeding enabling teams to avoid France, Argentina and Italy, furious lobbying will take place between now and late November.

The Football Association's probable disappointment may be assuaged by the knowledge that, aside from evading the biggest guns, there is little else to be gained from seeding. Each team, seeded or not, will play all its group matches in different venues, some of them hundreds of miles apart.

Travelling is going to be a feature of the tournament. Even Japan, who have the lightest schedule, would have to travel 1,400 miles journeying from stadium to stadium if they go all the way to the final. The longest haul would occur if the Group C seed came second at that stage, then reached the final. That would involve playing seven games in seven different stadia and flying at least 2,400 miles in 27 days.

In reality, with teams operating from a fixed base, this would mean at least 3,500 miles of flying. Given the heat and humidity, being well-prepared and having an effective recovery programme will be extremely important.

England's players will, at least, be well compensated for their endeavours. Core players are already likely to have benefited by £200,000 from the qualifying campaign, and the squad is embarking on negotiations which could result in a cumulative finals bonus of £5m.

In an attempt to avoid the friction which surrounded the issue ahead of France 98, the FA and the players' committee want to settle the issue as soon as possible. The committee – David Beckham, Michael Owen, Sol Campbell and David Seaman – is expected to meet the FA's chief executive, Adam Crozier, and marketing director, Paul Barber, in the next few weeks. Discussions will include how the money will be shared out and what personal appearances will be required.

One international who doubts he will be involved is Kieron Dyer. The Newcastle midfielder has yet to kick a ball this season because of a muscle injury and said yesterday: "After what happened last year when I was left out of Euro 2000 I am not counting my chickens. I was hurt by that and all I am thinking of now is getting fit for Newcastle. As far as I am concerned I still have a lot of hard work to do to even achieve that."

Injury has prevented Dyer adding to his eight caps since Sven Goran Eriksson's arrival, although the Swede watched him during Peter Taylor's sole match in charge, against Italy last November.

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