World Cup: Fifa's Gianni Infantino says he has support for expanded tournament

Gianni Infantino
The number of teams competing at a World Cup last increased in 1998, from 24 to 32 countries

Global football federations are "overwhelmingly in favour" of plans for a 48-team World Cup, Fifa president Gianni Infantino says.

The head of football's governing body outlined his vision for an expanded tournament comprising 16 groups of three teams earlier this month.

The top two teams in each group would progress to the knockout rounds.

A decision will be made in January but any change to the 32-team format is unlikely to come in before 2026.

Fifa's council will discuss the proposal at a meeting on 9 January but Infantino, 46, made expansion part of his election manifesto.

"We have to be more inclusive," he said at a sports conference in Dubai, adding that a 48-team tournament was the most financially appealing.

"If we can have a format that does not add any additional matches but brings so much joy to those who don't have the chance to participate then we will have to think about that," Infantino said.

"When discussed with the associations in the summits they were overwhelmingly in favour, but more discussions will have to take place."

The number of competing teams at World Cups last changed in 1998, increasing from 24 to 32.

The European Club Association, which represents the region's leading clubs, has rejected calls for the World Cup to be expanded.

Infantino also said experiments around video technology in refereeing at the recent Club World Cup had been "very positive" and that he hoped the system would be used at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Video technology used at Club World Cup
The video technology used at the Club World Cup

The system was first used to award a penalty in Kashima Antlers' semi-final win over Atletico Nacional, with the referee alerted by an assistant watching a monitor.

But there was confusion in the other semi-final between Real Madrid and Club America when the technology was used again.

After the referee asked for a consultation following a Cristiano Ronaldo goal, play briefly restarted from a free-kick for an infringement before the goal was eventually allowed to stand.

Infantino said tests in Japan had moved the system in "the right direction" but added "there is still a bit of fine-tuning to be made".

Analysis

Richard Conway, BBC Radio 5 live sports news correspondent

Gianni Infantino may well have "overwhelming" support for Fifa's 48-country World Cup plan - but it is not universal.

The European Clubs Association - which represents the biggest teams on the continent - is opposed. European teams provide 80% of the players to a World Cup so they are a significant stakeholder and will place pressure on Uefa.

Uefa is still to make its position clear but other confederations are likely to welcome an expanded tournament.

European nations take up a big proportion of the current 32 slots at the World Cup.

Given there's no chance of any redistribution taking place, Fifa see an expanded World Cup as a way to appease many of its 211 members who miss out on the party. It also fulfils one of Infantino's key presidential manifesto pledges.

Uefa may in the end go along with the 48-country plan given the likely support from the rest of the world. But it will likely want more of its countries to qualify too. Let the horse-trading begin.

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