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Fifa

Soccer federations back expansion of World Cup, says Fifa boss Gianni Infantino

Global football chief wants to increase number of nations from 32 to 48 for showpiece tournament

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 December, 2016, 10:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 December, 2016, 10:46pm

Football federations are “overwhelmingly in favour” of expanding the existing 32-nation World Cup, Fifa president Gianni Infantino said on Wednesday.

The global football boss wants to increase the number of teams playing in the World Cup final tournament to 48, arguing that it can be done in the same time frame as the current tournament.

“We have to be more inclusive,” Infantino said at the Dubai International Sports Conference, adding that a 48-team tournament was the most financially ­appealing.

Infantino proposes a 48-team format with an initial round of 16 groups of three teams. The top two teams of each group would qualify for a round of 32 knockout stage, then round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final.

There would be little or no ­impact on players under the ­proposed format with the winning team still playing seven games in 32 days as they do in the current 32-team World Cup, ­Infantino argued.

A total of 80 games would be played compared with the current 64 games.

When he was elected in February, Infantino said he wanted to expand the tournament from the 32 teams to 40.

Concacaf president Victor Montagliani said he supported the expansion plans but said he would like to see the proportional number of places awarded to each federation to remain the same as now.

Concacaf governs football in North and Central America and the Caribbean.

On Tuesday, Italian and Portuguese football federation presidents Carlo Tavecchio and Fernando Gomes said at the conference they were in favour of the proposal.

“We support the idea in order to increase the number of the teams, pending of course the ­conditions and the formula for the competitions,” Gomes said.

Any changes to the structure of the World Cup, however, are ­unlikely to be made until the 2026 World Cup, which is yet to be awarded.

The last time the number of teams competing in the World Cup was increased was in 1998 when it went from 24 to 32.

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The Fifa Council, made of up members of the global federations, is to discuss the expansion in January.

Infantino also said he was hopeful video technology would be introduced in time for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, following the use of the video assistant ­referee system at this month’s Club World Cup in Japan.

The tests in Japan were in “the right direction,” he said. “Even though there is still a bit of fine tuning to be made, the tests have been very, very positive.”