FIFA president Gianni Infantino proposes the introduction of 48 nations as part of his World Cup expansion plans.
(Image credit: IB Times)
When Sepp Blatter was forced to step down from football’s most coveted position on October 8 last year, Gianni Infantino announced a World Cup expansion plan in efforts to push for his candidacy for FIFA president. This proved to be a brilliant move for him, as it meant that he would be receiving a great of support for his campaign – especially from nations that are underrepresented – since more countries would be allowed to participate in the world’s biggest sporting event.
The plan included the addition of eight more nations to the finals at some point in the future, however now it appears his intention has changed with him instead wanting to have a total of 48 countries represented at the World Cups.
“These are ideas to find the best solution,” commented Infantino on his World Cup expansion plans. “We will debate them this month and we will decide everything by 2017. They are ideas which we put forward to see which one is the best.”
The reason for the even bigger World Cup expansion that would feature 48 nations participating at future events – instead of the originally planned 40 – is down to math. Although the new FIFA president admits that 32 is ‘ideal’ while ’48 is complicated’ he remains adamant they can pull it off when it comes to logistics and organization for his World Cup expansion plan.
“From a sporting point of view it is ideal to have 32 countries, while 48 is complicated… The World Cup is very well organized in its system of competition with 32 countries, groups and classifications for the second round, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final,” said the 46-year-old FIFA president.
The reasons for 32 countries being the ideal number is that it naturally leads to the final; every round of the competition sees half of the countries eliminated, which means out of 32 nations only 16 will progress to the next round, and then after that come the quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final (plus the third place finish).
However, the problem with a number like 48 means that the whole system of the elimination is distorted. Imagine breaking down 48 by half all the way until you get to 6 nations (48 → 24 → 12 → 6 → ?). Simply put, it doesn’t work so easily.
Russia will be the host for the upcoming World Cup in 2018; it will still feature 32 teams in the finals.
(Image credit: Welcome 2018)
Last summer’s Euro 2016 in France saw a European Championship feature 24 teams for the first time in the history of the competition – an expansion from the previous standard 16-nation format. Each group still has four teams (6 groups x 4 nations), however the expansion means that even third-placed teams can make it to the knockout phase, but the point is not all countries that finish third actually qualify. See the confusion?
The two best countries from each group automatically qualify for the next round (12 teams), however only four third-placed teams that have the best records join the other countries, which therefore allows for a round of 16 stage (12 + 4). After this the competition reaches the final by equal elimination from each round (last 16, quarters, semis). So the point is it can be done, but it’s somewhat complicated.
And to add to the confusion, Infantino suggests an unusual way his World Cup expansion plan could be implemented in practice. You guys be the judge whether or not this could actually work and whether all the 38 nations would support this system.
“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,” explained Infatino.
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The current world champions Germany are the favourites 7.00 (6/1) to defend their title in Russia 2018; if they’re successful in their pursuit of yet another World Cup title it would essentially put them on par with Brazil – the only side that has won the tournament on five occasions. At the moment, Joachim Low’s men are the second most successful nation at the World Cup along with Italy, with four titles.
Argentina – who reached the final in Brazil two years prior – are the second favourites 7.50 (13/2), while France – a nation that reached the final of Euro 2016 – is third on the list with odds of 9.00 (8/1). Spain are next in line 10.00 (9/1), while Brazil are currently fifth favourites 11.00 (10/1) to win a sixth World Cup title. Italy 19.00 (18/1), Belgium 21.00 (20/1) and England 21.00 (20/1) are all outsiders, per William Hill Sports.