Fifa wants more shoot-outs at World Cup
The Football Association is resigned to a 48-team World Cup becoming a reality this week, amid ongoing reservations about Fifa’s plans – which include penalty shoot-outs at the end of drawn group games.
Fifa’s council is scheduled to meet the morning after the governing body’s new annual awards ceremony, The Best Fifa Football Awards, to rubberstamp the first increase in the size of the game’s flagship tournament since 1998.
Expansion from 32 to 48 teams from 2026 is thought to be a foregone conclusion, with the majority of national associations and council members said to be in favour of a controversial format that will transform the competition’s first round from eight groups of four countries to 16 groups of three.
This would see each nation guaranteed two rather than three matches, with the top two in each group advancing to a last-32 stage in a tournament that will still last 32 days and still see no team play more than seven games.
Support for the concept is far from unanimous, with the federation of world champions Germany having gone public with its opposition on Thursday, citing “considerable weaknesses” in the preferred blueprint of Fifa president Gianni Infantino, who was elected last year on a platform that included expanding the World Cup.
The “weaknesses” cited by Germany include a risk of a surge in the number of dead-rubber final group matches. There is also the more serious threat of the results being contrived to suit both teams if they have recorded a win and a draw in their opening fixtures.
Fifa’s solution is a radical proposal for drawn group fixtures to be followed by a penalty shoot-out in order to ensure a positive result in every match.
Despite that, the FA is resigned to the switch and has not mandated vicechairman David Gill, Britain’s Fifa vicepresident, to oppose it. Indeed, Gill will not even attend Tuesday’s summit after Fifa rearranged its winter council meetings from December to January, creating a clash with a trip the former Manchester United chief executive had arranged to Australia.