lowdown expansion of the Fifa World Cup finals
Gianni Infantino took the chance to explain at the Dubai International Sports Conference why going from 32 to 48 teams for the tournament would be a good thing for football.
Germany won the 2014 competition that saw 32 teams compete in South America at the finals. But Infantino, the Fifa president, wants to increase the competition from the 32 it has been since 1998, to 48. That would mean the finals would consist of 16 groups of three with the top two countries qualifying for the knockout stages. A decision will be made next month, although any changes would likely not be implemented until the 2026 World Cup.
Infantino insists he has the support of the majority of the world’s football federations, saying: “Obviously, I’m not a dictator and this is something that needs to be discussed, but when we discussed it with our member associations at the summit [in Singapore this month] they were overwhelmingly in favour.”
“When you increase the number of teams there’s a potential to have more lower-ranked sides, but if you look at the last World Cup, Italy and England were both eliminated by Costa Rica. When you move into the knockouts, football is one of the only sports where anyone can beat anyone, so a spectacle will always be guaranteed.”
“I honestly see no downsides, only upsides,” he said. “The only question is how many teams will be allowed from each confederation and that’s a political question that needs to be discussed.”
“Expanding is also for the development of football all over the world,” Infantino added of why it was good to have more countries involved. “There is nothing bigger in terms of boosting football in a country than participating in a World Cup.”