Mbidi not in favour of 48 teams

11 January 2017 | Sports

Namibia Football Association (NFA) president Frans Mbidi is not in support of the 48 World Cup teams expansion as unanimously approved by FIFA's ruling council yesterday.

Mbidi told Namibian Sun yesterday that the expansion of the number of teams was a “brilliant” idea, though.

“I think the expansion is a brilliant idea but the expansion to 48 teams is just too much as the initial plan was only 40. I am not really sure how it went up to 48 and I think it is a high number that would compromise the quality of the competition,” he said.

He said the World Cup was a high level football competition and only the best got the chance to compete, “so for me I would be comfortable with 40 teams and not 48.”

FIFA's ruling council unanimously approved an expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams in 2026, with a format of 16 groups of three nations.

“The FIFA Council unanimously decided on a 48-team #WorldCup as of 2026: 16 groups of 3 teams,” a tweet from FIFA's official account said.

The decision marks a major coup for the body's president Gianni Infantino, who has made enlarging football's showcase event the centrepiece of his young administration.

The controversial proposal has faced criticism from some of the sport's most powerful voices, including warnings that it would dilute the quality of play and overburden already exhausted players.

But Infantino had in recent weeks voiced confidence that his flagship project would be approved.

While noting that a bigger tournament would bring in more money, the FIFA chief has also argued that more World Cup berths would help drive football's global growth.

Africa and Asia could be the big winners in a larger format with a rise in their number of places, currently at 5 and 4.5 respectively.

But in order to smooth over scepticism about World Cup reform within UEFA, it is likely that Europe will also see its allotments rise above the current 13 places.

A source close to FIFA told AFP that under the new format Europe could get 16 places, with Africa earning nine.

But the information remained unconfirmed and world football's governing body was not expected to immediately announce its final decision on allotments.

The powerful council officially weighed five proposals during Tuesday's meeting at FIFA's snow-covered Zurich headquarters, including maintaining the status quo of 32-teams.

The landmark decision to expand the tournament is the latest overhaul of the World Cup, which has seen its global popularity and financial might surge since the inaugural edition in 1930.

That contest, won by Uruguay, had just 13 countries.

The World Cup expanded to 24 teams in 1982 in Spain before moving to its current 32-team version at France 1998.

- additional reporting NAMPA/AFP

SPORT REPORTER

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