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.

The National - News - Sport - - LEADING OFF - John McAu­ley

2026

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.

In favour

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.”

Spec­ta­cle

“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.”

‘No down­sides’

“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.”

Noth­ing big­ger

“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.”

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