Never thought I'd hear myself say it but I feel sorry for the French. Les Bleus were unfortunate enough to be drawn in the same qualifying group as Spain and, unsurprisingly, they didn't manage to finish top of the group. now must get to Rio via the European play off draw. With teams like Romania, Sewden and Iceland in the draw the French must have still fancied their chances of a berth at the finals. However, yesterday FIFA released the seedings for the play off draw and France have landed in Pot 2. This means that they will not be playing any of the aforementioned teams but rather are faced with the more much more difficult task of either Croatia, Ukraine, Greece or Portugal. The French haven't been this duped since Agincourt.
Why did the French find themselves in this second pot? Was it because they lost to someone other than Spain? Nope. They are only there because their group (Group I) had five teams instead of six and were therefore unable to rack up as many FIFA ranking points. If they had been in a group with six teams they would have almost undoubtedly been in Pot 1. The French played two fewer games than Croatia but still finished on the same amount of points with a much better goal difference. On top of this the other teams in France's group were ranked very low and because FIFA includes the opposition's current world ranking in the overall calculation of points earned, France were doomed from the outset of qualifying two years ago.
Its not too late to rectify this injustice and there is a simple way of doing so. Because FIFA's calculation for the amount of points is so messy, France can't simply be award fractionally more points for each win or draw. Awarding 3.75 points for a win instead of 3 would complete skew these calculations. The simplest and fairest answer would be to treat the two extra friendlies that France played as if they were qualifying matches. Which two friendlies one might ask? This doesn't matter so much because any game two games would get France the required amount of points for Pot 1. Whilst Italy was drawing to Armenia in their qualifying match this month, France was routing world cup bound Australia 6-0 in a friendly. That win alone would be enough.
Now having said all of this, I'm an Englishmen and whilst this shafting has irked me, I would still prefer to have Iceland in our group over France so maybe retroactive action isn't required. I would, however, like to see the system changed before the next world cup qualifiers just in case England is drawn in group I.