48-team W-Cup?

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

even if 16 of them would go home af­ter a sin­gle ‘qual­i­fy­ing’ match.

The pro­posal to ex­pIt would mean al­most a quar­ter of FIFA’s 211 mem­bers qual­i­fy­ing for its flag­ship tour­na­ment and fur­ther in­crease the demands on the host na­tion. But the idea is likely to be pop­u­lar among con­fed­er­a­tions out­side Europe, who have long felt dis­ad­van­taged when it comes to World Cup places.

In­fantino, speak­ing dur­ing an event at Bogota’s Ser­gio Aboleda uni­ver­sity, said a fi­nal de­ci­sion on the plan would be taken by the newly ex­panded FIFA Coun­cil in Jan­uary, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal Colom­bian me­dia. “These are ideas to find the best so­lu­tion. We will de­bate them this month and we will de­cide ev­ery­thing by 2017,” said In­fantino. “They are ideas which we put for­ward to see which one is the best.”

The Swiss-Ital­ian, a late en­trant to the FIFA pres­i­den­tial race when the UEFA pres­i­dent, Michel Pla­tini, was forced to with­draw over the episode by which he was even­tu­ally banned from foot­ball for four years, said he would ad­vo­cate a 48-team tour­na­ment. In­fantino sug­gested a pre­lim­i­nary knock­out round in­volv­ing 32 teams played in the host coun­try, with 16 win­ners reach­ing the group stage. An­other 16 seeded teams would get a bye into the group stage. A FIFA spokes­woman con­firmed on Mon­day night that the quotes were ac­cu­rate. The po­ten­tial ex­pan­sion of the World Cup from the cur­rent 32 teams is likely to be one of the items for dis­cus­sion when the FIFA Coun­cil, re­branded from the dis­graced ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee that be­came syn­ony­mous with the cor­rup­tion scan­dal that brought world foot­ball to its knees, meets next week. Joachim Low (car­i­ca­ture), the Ger­many coach, said last week­end that he op­posed plans to ex­pand the tour­na­ment.

“I don’t think its a good idea to di­lute the sport­ing value,” the 2014World Cup-win­ning coach told the Welt am Son­ntag news­pa­per in an in­ter­view on Sun­day.

Low added that he had “an ab­so­lute un­der­stand­ing for the smaller na­tions who, thanks to this, could take their place on the big stage”.

How­ever, Low, who was also against en­larg­ing the Euro­pean cham­pi­onship from 16 to 24 teams, said that ex­panded tour­na­ments placed a greater “sport­ing and men­tal” bur­den on the play­ers. “We must be clear that, in the long term, the qual­ity suf­fers. We must not overdo it.”

The World Cup was ex­panded from 24 teams to 32 in 1994 but most pro­pos­als for fur­ther ex­pan­sion in­volve con­vo­luted math­e­mat­i­cal con­tor­tions or leave open the pos­si­bil­ity of mak­ing the group stages un­bal­anced.

In­fantino’s so­lu­tion would avoid that but would leave 16 teams fly­ing to the host coun­try to play one match be­fore go­ing home again. – Agen­cies

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