Published On: Wed, Jan 11th, 2017

Mixed reactions as FIFA approves 48 teams for World Cup

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Critics of FIFA’s decision on  Tuesday to expand the World Cup to 48 teams were quick to blast it as a politically and money-driven ploy that will be detrimental to football’s showpiece tournament, AFP reports.

FIFA’s ruling council voted unanimously  to expand the present 32-member World Cup finals to 48 teams for the 2026 edition.

But there was support – particularly in Asia and Africa –for FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s expansion plan.

In Germany, the reigning World Cup winners, reaction was mixed.

“I am not happy with the decision and would have wished that all the important questions about the organisation and the format had been completely resolved,” said Reinhard Grindel, President of the German Football Association.

“But since the decision was taken unanimously by the FIFA council, it is important to respect it and look forward.”
Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff said he could “understand everyone who feels the increase of the field is a dilution (in the quality of the tournament).”

“Also for me, the increase to 48 teams for the biggest and the most important tournament in the world feels like it’s too much,” he said.

Berti Vogts, who won the 1974 World Cup with Germany and went on to coach his country, did not hold back.

“I’m very, very appalled, I don’t want to believe it,” he said.

“It’s terrible. If you want to ruin something, this is the path you should take. I just don’t understand it.”

Javier Tebas, president of the Spanish league, made no attempt to hide his disgust.

“FIFA is doing politics. Gianni Infantino is doing politics,” he thundered.

New FIFA Now, a campaign group that says the scandal-plagued governing body needs to reform, labelled the expansion “a money grab and power grab”.

“It will dilute the competitiveness of the tournament and, therefore, the enjoyment of fans,” it said in a statement.

A confidential FIFA report seen by AFP projects a 48-team tournament would bring a cash boost of $640m  above projected revenues for next year’s finals in Russia.

Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic told Kyodo,  “A 48-team proposal, especially one where the group stage trims the field to 32 teams, is clearer and fairer.”

Phillip Chiyangwa, the Zimbabwe Football Association president, told AFP,  “It is good because it is about accommodating more teams from Africa. That is positive.”

The Scottish Football Association also warmly welcomed the decision, chief executive Stewart Regan saying it would allow the domestic game to develop with the extra finances that qualifying for the quadrennial football showpiece would bring.

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