FIFA looks at plan for 48 teams to play in World Cup

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FIFA pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino has in­di­cated his de­sire to ex­pand the World Cup fi­nals for­mat from 32 to 48 teams. The 46-year-old Swiss, who suc­ceeded Sepp Blat­ter ear­lier this year, had spo­ken in his elec­tion cam­paign about mak­ing the tour­na­ment a 40team com­pe­ti­tion. Now In­fantino has re­vealed the idea of a fur­ther eight na­tions be­ing added is be­ing mulled over, with a fi­nal de­ci­sion to be reached by the FIFA coun­cil in Jan­uary. Speak­ing at an event in Colom­bia, he said: “From a sport­ing point of view it is ideal to have 32 coun­tries, while 48 is com­pli­cated. So this is an idea, but not de­fin­i­tive. Ideas are to re­con­sider and find the best. “It will all be dis­cussed this month and will be de­cided in Jan­uary 2017. They are ideas that are re­leased to see if any­one has a bet­ter idea.” In­fantino’s idea would see the losers of 16 pre­lim­i­nary knock­out round matches go home af­ter just one game, with the 16 win­ners join­ing 16 seeded teams in the group stage. “The World Cup is very well or­gan­ised in its sys­tem of com­pe­ti­tion with 32 coun­tries, groups and clas­si­fi­ca­tions for the sec­ond round, quar­ter-fi­nals, semi­fi­nals and fi­nal,” he said. “So the idea is to be 16 seeded coun­tries and a first phase of 32 coun­tries, with a direct elim­i­na­tion game to ad­vance and con­tinue the nor­mal World Cup with 32, but 48 teams go to the party. “The idea of FIFA is to de­velop foot­ball world­wide, and the World Cup is the big­gest event in the world – not just sport – be­cause it is a com­pe­ti­tion, it is a so­cial event, it has a very im­por­tant im­pact. “So in my cam­paign I said that the idea was 40, be­cause, for ex­am­ple, if Colom­bia is clas­si­fied, the whole coun­try is in eu­pho­ria, there is hap­pi­ness, but if it is elim­i­nated, there is sad­ness, it is a na­tional tragedy. It shows the power of foot­ball and the World Cup.”

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