Wales will welcome expanded World Cup
WALES have thrown their weight behind FIFA’s new expanded 48-team World Cup.
Welsh FA officials believe the bigger tournament gives their fans a better opportunity of following the Dragons in the greatest football competition on earth.
They feel Welsh supporters and players deserve that stage after the way the ‘Red Wall’ and Chris Coleman’s heroes captured the imagination of a continent during Euro 2016.
FA of Wales bosses have yet to make an official comment on the FIFA Council vote, which was taken in Zurich yesterday.
However, they are understood to be delighted with the decision and know it represents the best opportunity for a growing football nation like Wales to punch their weight against giants such as Brazil and Argentina.
Wales are confident they will have another competitive team for the 2026 World Cup – the first time the new 48-team format kicks in.
Another golden crop of youngsters are coming through the system, headed by Liverpool’s highly-rated starlet Ben Woodburn.
An enlarged Euro 2016 gave eight extra teams the added incentive of reaching the finals, which energised Wales throughout their qualifying campaign – although Coleman’s men would have qualified anyway.
Wales put to bed 48 years of hurt with their astonishing run to the semifinals, while nations like Iceland and Northern Ireland brought a new fervour to the tournament.
A decade on, it is believed an expanded World Cup will do the same.
The new format has won support from Scottish FA chief Stewart Regan and Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho, who agreed the small, passionate nations are the big winners from FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s ambitious plan.
Mourinho said: “The expansion means that the World Cup will be even more of an incredible social event. More countries, more investment in different countries in infrastructure, in youth football. More nations taking part means more passion, more happiness, more enthusiasm.”
While Wales’ World Cup 2018 fate hangs in the balance, 2026 will represent a fantastic chance to appear in the finals.
The new tournament will comprise 16 groups of three followed by a 32-team knockout, with the same number of games as the current format.
Europe will have 13 spots in the 2018 tournament in Russia – the same as the 2014 World Cup in Brazil – but that number is set to increase for 2026, giving nations like Wales a huge opportunity to strut their stuff with the world watching.