Saturday 10 December 2016

FIFA president Gianni Infantino wants to expand World Cup from 32 to 48 teams

Published 04/10/2016 | 07:42

FIFA's President Gianni Infantino takes selfies during a friendly football match with former Colombian players and international football stars in Bogota
FIFA's President Gianni Infantino takes selfies during a friendly football match with former Colombian players and international football stars in Bogota

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has indicated his desire to expand the World Cup finals format from 32 to 48 teams.

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The 46-year-old Swiss, who succeeded Sepp Blatter earlier this year, had spoken in his election campaign about making the tournament a 40-team competition.

And, speaking at an event at the Sergio Arboleda university in Bogota in Monday, Infantino revealed the idea of a further eight nations being added was being mulled over, with a final decision to be reached by the FIFA council in January.

Quoted by Colombian newspaper El Pais, he said: "From a sporting point of view it is ideal to have 32 countries, while 48 is complicated. So this is an idea, but not definitive. Ideas are to reconsider and find the best. It will all be discussed this month and will be decided in January 2017. They are ideas that are released to see if anyone has a better idea."

Infantino's suggestion would see the losers of 16 preliminary knockout round matches go home after just one game, with the 16 winners progressing to join 16 seeded teams in the group stage.

"The World Cup is very well organised in its system of competition with 32 countries, groups and classifications for the second round, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final," he said. "So the idea is to be 16 seeded countries and a first phase of 32 countries, with a direct elimination game to advance and continue the normal World Cup with 32, but 48 teams go to the party."

He continued: "The idea of FIFA is to develop football worldwide, and the World Cup is the biggest event in the world - not just sport - because it is a competition, it is a social event, because in the streets speaking world, it has a very important impact.

"So in my campaign I said that the idea was 40, because, for example, if Colombia is classified, the whole country is in euphoria, there is happiness, but if it is eliminated, there is sadness, it is a national tragedy. It shows the power of football and the World Cup."

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