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FIFA Moves Forward With Controversial 40-Team World Cup

FIFA president Gianni Infantino looks set to continue the work of his predecessor, Sepp Blatter, and disgraced UEFA president Michel Platini in expanding the World Cup to 40 teams.

The 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will each feature the current format of 32 teams, which came into use for the 1998 edition of the tournament, but Infantino believes the 2026 World Cup will feature 40 national sides. 

The increase to 40 would result in two additional places for Africa, two more for Asia, two shared between CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, a guaranteed place for the Oceania Confederation and one additional berth for UEFA.

“This is what I declared during my campaign and as you know I’m not a dictator but a democratically elected FIFA president, so I have to speak to everyone and listen to everyone as well,” Infantino said


The 1998 expansion allowed more teams from Africa, Asia and North America to take part, and resulted in some fine achievements for teams from those confederations.

“[The World Cup is] not based on the quality of the teams because you don’t have the best 32 at the World Cup,” Platini has said. “But it’s a good compromise…It’s a political matter so why not have more Africans? The competition is to bring all the people of all the world. If you don’t give the possibility to participate, they don’t improve.”

South Korea famously finished in fourth place in 2002, Costa Rica were quarter-finalists in 2014, and Africa have seen sides advance to the quarter-finals in 1990 (Cameroon), 2002 (Senegal) and 2010 (Ghana).

However, an African side is yet to reach the semi-finals and Australia remains the only Oceanian qualifier to advance to the second round.

While the performances of these confederations don’t necessarily equate to a need for more berths, Infantino, like Blatter before him, believes that today's globalization should result in a more equal representation of confederations at the World Cup.

Sepp Blatter

Disgraced former president Sepp Blatter advocated for 40 teams. Photo: @Sportsfreakconz | Twitter

While Infantino would surely move quickly to adapt these changes, he’s due to be interviewed by investigators following a breach of FIFA’s code of ethics.

According to World Soccer, Infantino is alleged to have used “private jets provided by a World Cup-bidding country; that he filled senior posts without checking people’s eligibility for the role; and abusing personal expenses by billing FIFA for mattresses, flowers, an exercise machine and personal laundry.”

Infantino’s transgressions could result in a full investigation and possible suspension from his role. The worse case scenario for Infantino is that he could be banned from football like Sepp Blatter before him.

(H/T: World Soccer)

Follow me on Twitter: @ConmanFleming 

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