'I would vote for 114 teams going through' - Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane give their views on World Cup expansion
Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has backed plans to increase the World Cup to 48 teams at the 2026 tournament, but he admits there is a danger that the quality of the competition will be seriously diluted.
Proposals are in place for a 48-team tournament that will feature an initial phase with three teams in each group, meaning teams knocked out at that stage of the competition will only play two matches.
Speaking to the ITV World Cup podcast, O'Neill offered a balance view on the prospect of the expansion of FIFA's marquee event, as he admitted his view may be altered if he were not in his current managerial position.
"I would probably have two views on this," stated O'Neill. "First of all, if you are managing a nation that doesn't get through too often, as history has proved, in the Republic of Ireland, then I would like to see it extended.
"If I was looking from a spectator view point, I would say that is a lot of teams and you might get a lot of dull matches. Also, it is a long, long way to go if you are only going to play two matches.
"If I can continue manage the Republic of Ireland for say the next 35 years, I would vote for not only 48 teams but I would vote for 114 teams going through and pack in the qualification process altogether."
O'Neill's assistant Roy Keane hinted an expanded World Cup may not be great for supporters, but could be a major boost to Ireland's ambitions.
"We know how difficult it is to qualify and if there are more places available, it would give us a better opportunity, but you want the real quality at the World Cup," said Keane.
"If there are too many teams there and too many games, that might just take the edge away from supporters point of view. I enjoy it as it is, but if I am still with the manager and still alive and it is a better chance for us to qualify so bring it on."