FIFA President Pushes for 48 Teams for 2022 Qatar World Cup

Published July 14th, 2018 - 05:21 GMT
Fifa president pitches a plan for co-sharing of the event in the region
Fifa president pitches a plan for co-sharing of the event in the region

Fifa President Gianni Infantino made it clear as he has previously that he would like to see the World Cup field expand to 48 teams when the tournament resumes in Qatar in 2022.

That would be problematic for the tiny kingdom, so Infantino is pitching a plan that would have Qatar share the World Cup with some of its Middle East neighbours.

Here’s the rub: a number of those countries had cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar 13 months ago and imposed a blockade on the country on the charges of the latter endorsing terror activities.

“Maybe, we could bring those who are having difficulties communicating with each other to start dialogue,” Infantino said. “The door is slightly ajar and we will see how it moves on from there.”

The emir of Qatar is expected to attend the World Cup final on Sunday, and Infantino sat with the Saudi crown prince at the opening game on June 14. Infantino says Qatar can insist on keeping a 32-team format, though he is “pretty sure that all options will be on the table.” Fifa had originally planned to expand the World Cup to 48 teams in 2026, when the US, Mexico and Canada will jointly stage the tournament.

Infantino sees participation in a World Cup as a powerful tool to help grow the sport in developing countries.

“There is nothing more powerful than participating in an event like the World Cup to boost football,” he said.

Among the options that have been considered is a play-off round involving 32 nations from which 16 winners would join 16 seeded teams in a traditional group stage. But that format was rejected in January 2017 by FIFA’s ruling council when it agreed to expand the World Cup.

“Yes, it’s doable, we just need to figure out how it is done,” Nasser Al Khater, Qatar’s assistant secretary general for tournament affairs, told reporters earlier this month. “If the format is done right, it could actually be an addition that is exciting.”

By Kevin Baxter

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