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Blatter tells South America to rethink Copa America

© Reuters 2002

ASUNCION, Jan 31 (Reuters) - FIFA president Sepp Blatter told the South American Football Confederation (CSF) on Thursday that playing the Copa America every two years is incompatible with the 90-game World Cup qualifying group used by the region.

According to Blatter, the Copa America should be played every four years. The CSF have not yet responded, but have already indicated that the next Copa America, scheduled for Peru in 2003, is likely to be postponed for one year.

"Yesterday (Wednesday) we put it to the executive committee of the CSF that it will no longer be possible to play 18 (World Cup qualifying games) and keep holding the Copa America every two years. This was made very clear," Blatter told journalists in Paraguay.

Under the current World Cup qualifying format each of the 10 teams play home and away games against the other nine, making a total of 18 games each and 90 in the group.

The top four teams qualified automatically for the 2002 World Cup while the fifth placed team - Uruguay - reached the finals after beating Australia in a two-legged playoff.

Blatter indicated that the alternative to retaining the biennial Copa America would be to revert to two mini-groups in South America.

His attendance at the CSF meeting was ostensibly to seek support for re-election as FIFA president. The prospect of retaining the South American mega-group was intended as a carrot to help win that support.

The cash-rich European clubs that tempt away so many South American players are backing the move. They complain about the frequent demands made on their players for international duty.

Overloaded Fixture List
South America's preference for playing the Copa America tournament every two years was also typical of a region whose club fixture list is overloaded at national and international level. Poor administration and low revenues is seen as the root of the problem.

"The main problem with holding the Copa America every four years is that we have a contract with Traffic (a Brazilian company that holds the television rights to CSF tournaments) to hold the tournament every two years until 2009," said CSF president Eduardo Deluca.

Blatter was intransigent on this issue. "It is now up to the confederation to present their proposal to FIFA regarding the qualifying format for World Cup in Germany in 2006," he said.

The CSF has until the end of this year to decide on a complementary format for the two tournaments, he added.

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