STAND by for a new-look 2010 World Cup qualifying draw in Durban next Sunday. For the European qualifiers, there will be nine groups, eight comprised of six teams, the other of five.
The group winners will advance to the finals in South Africa with the eight best runners-up playing off for four other places, giving Europe 13 teams in the finals.
A final decision on seedings won't be made until the FIFA Executive meet on Thursday but UEFA are happy for the European seedings to be based on the FIFA world rankings, following the end of the 2008 Euro qualifiers on Wednesday.
Until now, the European seedings were worked off a combination of qualifying results in the last World Cup and European Championships. Either way, the Republic of Ireland, currently ranked 21st in Europe, are certain to be among the third seeds.
Based on current FIFA rankings, the top seeds would be Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, Portugal, Czech Republic, Croatia and England. Were England to lose their final Euro qualifier to Croatia, however, Romania could overtake them as a top seed.
so long, merrion
NEXT Friday is moving day for the FAI as they bid adieu to their home for almost 70 years, at 80 Merrion Square, and pitch tent at their plush new headquarters at the Sports Campus Ireland in Abbotstown, north-west Dublin.
Many a tale of political coups, unrest and bizarre team selections unfolded behind the famous green door, formerly the home of Unionist leader Edward Carson.
In the early '80s, when I first had reason to ring Dublin 766864, Merrion Square was the fiefdom of two heavyweights, FAI general secretary Peadar O'Driscoll and League of Ireland secretary Eamonn Morris.
Since then the FAI has expanded to such an extent that over 120 employees will be working from the new offices in Abbotstown. As a sweetener, the sale of Merrion Square netted the FAI in excess of €6 million.
Chief joins hunt
HAVE the FAI hedged their bets on the head-hunters? With the exception of John Giles, Association chiefs have not exactly been knocked over in the rush as they seek assistance in their efforts to find a suitable successor to Steve Staunton as Republic of Ireland manager.
A dozen kingmakers were touted but some declined to have anything to do with the process while others said they would help but only in an unofficial capacity. The lack of enthusiasm has forced FAI chief executive John Delaney to have a more active role in the process.
While Giles has spoken to Paul Jewell, the FAI have a preference for a manager with international experience, coupled with success at club level.
That keeps Terry Venables and Gerard Houllier in the frame but by Wednesday night, when the 2008 Euro qualifiers are over, another clutch of candidates will become available for work.
DAVE Mooney achieved a rare double this season. Not only was Mooney the first Longford Town player to top the Premier Division goal-scoring charts, with 19 goals, he also became the first leading scorer to be relegated since the two tier-league system was introduced in 1985.
Mooney's 19-goal tally eclipsed the Longford record of 18 set by Keith O'Connor in 2000 when the club won promotion from the First Division.
Longford's six-point deduction for a breach of League rules was a noose around their necks as they won more games, nine, than Bray, Galway, UCD and Waterford and accumulated enough points on the field to finish ninth.
making a 'b' line
PAT Devlin's 'B' specials will be striving to follow the path taken by players involved in Ireland's last 'B' international when they face Scotland in Airdrie on Tuesday.
The likes of Stephen Hunt, Shane Long and Andy Keogh availed of the platform at Dalymount Park a year ago to become regulars in the senior squad.
This is Ireland's first away 'B' international since the 2-0 loss to England at Anfield in December '94 when Andy Cole and Robbie Fowler scored in front of 7,431 fans.
There are no players of that calibre involved this time. Indeed, the two squads feature only four Premier League players, Ross Wallace (Sunderland) and Steven Howard (Derby County) for the Scots, and Colin Doyle (Birmingham) and Roy O'Donovan for the Irish.
Keano on bench
RUUD Gullit played with, and against, a few useful players in his time for club and country.
In selecting his Perfect XI in the December issue of 'Four Four Two', the Dutch legend includes Roy Keane among his five substitutes.
Why Keane? "Good defensive midfielder and a leader on the pitch," says Gullit. Keane is in stellar company on a bench that features no less than Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldinho, Ronald Koeman and Edwin Van Der Sar.
Former Rangers winger Davie Cooper is the surprise selection in Gullit's star-studded XI which reads: Schmeichel; Kaltz, Baresi, Desailly, Maldini; Kaka, Rijkaard, Maradona, Cooper; Cruyff, Van Basten.
soccer on tv
Today: Yeovil v Gillingham, 1.30 Sky Sports 1; Hartlepool v Bournemouth, 4.0 Sky Sports 1; Uruguay v Chile, 7.0 Sky Sports 1; Peru v Brazil, 9.10 Sky Sports 1.
Tuesday: Republic of Ireland U21s v Bulgaria U21s, 7.0 Sky Sports 2; Wales U21s v France U21s, 8.0 Sky Sports 1; Venezuela v Bolivia, 10.30 Sky Sports 1.
Wednesday: Colombia v Argentina, 00.30, Sky Sports 1; Germany v Wales, 7.30 BBC 2 Wales; Ukraine v France, 7.30 Eurosport; Serbia v Poland, 7.45 Setanta Ireland; England v Croatia, 8.0 BBC 1; Brazil v Uruguay, 11.30 Sky Sports 1.
Thursday: Chile v Paraguay, 01.30 Sky Sports 1.
Friday: Karlsruhe v Hertha Berlin, 7.30 Setanta Sports 1; Saturday: Falkirk v Rangers, 12.30 Setanta Sports 1; Newcastle Utd v Liverpool, 12.45 Sky Sports 1; Bolton v Manchester Utd, Setanta Sports 1, 3.0; Derby Co v Chelsea, 5.15 Setanta Sports 1; Preston v Charlton, 5.20 Sky Sports 1.