In­fantino: only ‘slim chance’ of 48-team World Cup in 2022

Gulf Times Sport - - FRONT PAGE -

Ade­ci­sion on a pos­si­ble ex­pan­sion of the 2022 World Cup from 32 to 48 teams will be made in March at the lat­est, and the chances of it hap­pen­ing are slim, FIFA pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino has said. In­fantino con­firmed to DPA that the FIFA Coun­cil will de­cide on the is­sue at its March 14-15 meet­ing in Mi­ami, and he also ex­pects a de­ci­sion there on the in­tro­duc­tion of an ex­panded Club World Cup and global Na­tions League.

Foot­ball’s rul­ing body FIFA has al­ready ap­proved the ex­pan­sion to 48 teams for the 2026 tour­na­ment in the United States, Mex­ico and Canada, and FIFA is now look­ing into a South Amer­i­can pro­posal to have 48 teams in 2022 in Qatar as well.

But In­fantino is skep­ti­cal that this will be­come re­al­ity, say­ing: “The chance is slim. We are try­ing it.

“It would be great if it works out but it is also great if it doesn’t work out. We will have a great tour­na­ment, no mat­ter what.” By the time of the Mi­ami meet­ing a FIFA task force, headed by In­fantino, will have com­pleted its look into the con­tro­ver­sial Club World Cup and Na­tions League is­sue which is backed by 25bn dol­lars from so far un­named in­vestors, the FIFA boss said.

The task force was set up re­cently ow­ing to pres­sure from crit­ics within the FIFA Coun­cil, mainly from Europe, who want more in­for­ma­tion on the in­vestors and pos­si­ble tour­na­ment for­mats.

In­fantino dis­missed the crit­i­cism on a new-look Club World Cup and at the same time crit­i­cised al­leged plans of a break­away Su­per League, in­sist­ing that the Club World Cup “is the bet­ter Su­per League” be­cause it would take place within ex­ist­ing fed­er­a­tion struc­tures. In­fantino also threat­ened play­ers from clubs who would per­form in such a break­away league with World Cup ex­clu­sion.

This pic­ture taken on Fe­bru­ary 29, 2016 shows FIFA pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino (L) and Swiss pros­e­cu­tor Ri­naldo Arnold dur­ing a foot­ball match or­gan­ised after In­fantino’s elec­tion in Zurich.

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