UAE's road to World Cups unchanged

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World Cup quest: Mahdi Ali.

The UAE’s route to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups is unchanged after FIFA president Sepp Blatter confirmed there will not be any alterations made regarding qualification and allocation of slots.

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The subject was discussed a day after the 79-year-old was re-elected for a fifth term at the helm of the globe’s governing body.

The topic was a vital one for the Whites as a reduction or increase in spots per confederation would have impacted their chances of making a return to a tournament they last reached in 1990.

But they will continue to bid for one of the Asian Football Confederation’s four automatic places or an intercontinental play-off when their latest campaign kicks off in the second round against Timor-Leste in Malaysia’s Shah Alam Stadium on June 16.

“This morning we [the FIFA Executive Committee] had an excellent meeting,” said Blatter.

“Among other things, we decided that the slots of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup would not change.

“So, we will stick to 32 teams and the same distribution [of places from across the confederations] accepted by everybody, although some were more grumpy than others.”

Mahdi Ali’s men are the fifth-highest ranked side in Asia at 68, meaning if the process runs to form they will face a play-off.

The eight group winners from the second round and the four best runners up will advance to the third qualifying round, featuring two groups of six.

The top two of each group will then automatically advance to the 2018 World Cup, with the two third-placed teams going into a qualifying play-off to compete for a right to play the inter-continental play-off.

The issue had been a heated one in the run up to the FIFA election, rumours swirling allocation promises were traded between various confederations and candidates in exchange for votes.

A decision to stick with the status quo sees Europe retain 13 places,

Africa five, South America and Asia four each plus a spot for the winner of an intercontinental play-off.

Concacaf get three with a fourth team then up against an Oceania side in a play-off.

Hosts Russia qualify automatically in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.

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