Should the World Cup expand to 40 teams?

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UEFA President Michel Platini last week suggested that the World Cup expand to 40 teams as early as Russia 2018.

This comes after FIFA President Sepp Blatter hinted that in future World Cups, there will be a reduction of European countries in the touramant to allow for more African and Asian teams to come in.

In Brazil 2014, the allocation of spots is 13 teams from UEFA, 5.5 from Conmebol (South America), 5 from CAF (Africa), 4.5 from the AFC (Asia), 3.5 from Concacaf (North and Central America) and 0.5 from the OFC (Oceania).

Blatter’s proposal of reducing teams in Europe to allow more African and Asian countries is flawed. Why should 57th ranked Asian country Australia have an easier time qualifying, compared to 26th ranked European nation Denmark?

What’s interesting is that Denmark has missed out on qualification for Brazil, thus giving an indication of how tough qualifying from Europe really is.

Platini’s alternative solution is to expand to 40 teams, to allow more nations from Asia and Africa to compete and help preserve the European countries in the event.

“I totally agree with Mr Blatter that we need more African and Asian [teams],” Platini told ESPN. “But instead of taking away some European, we have to go to 40 teams in the World Cup. We can add two African, two Asiatic, two American and one from Europe. I support this idea totally.”

So how does a 40-team World Cup work?

According to Platini, the tournament will increase by three days to 35 days overall – an even five weeks. There will be eight groups of five, with five match days, an increase from the current three.

Each team will have a bye, with one team finishing its group matches before the final match day.

There will be an increase of group matches from 48 to 80. It is possible that for the first 20 or 21 days, there could be four matches a day scheduled.

Reading about this proposal for a 40-team World Cup as a Socceroos fan, I do have mixed feelings about it.

Having two extra spots in Asia would make the Socceroos chances of qualifying a lot easier, but are we awarding mediocrity?

In the current FIFA rankings, the top 32 teams in the world consist of 20 from UEFA, six from Conmebol, three from CAF and Concacaf and none from the AFC or OFC.

Platini’s 40-team World Cup plan has more problems than you can shake a stick at.

There will be teams in the World Cup that don’t deserve to be there. It could mean more average football games and lopsided scorelines.

In a group of five, with one team finishing before the other four teams, there is always the possibility of some funny business happening on the fifth and final match day. Illegal bookmakers could come into play.

There are much bigger headaches off the field with regards to staging an increased World Cup. Could host countries have enough hotels and accommodation for an extra eight teams along with their fans and media?

And what about the stadiums?

Like the players, the stadium pitches need a minimum four days to recover from every game – otherwise you end up with wear and tear on the pitches, which in turn would ruin the spectacle of many matches.

Russia will have 12 stadiums built for the 2018 event, the event which Platini has said could feature 40 teams. Will 12 stadiums be enough to host 80 matches in 20 or 21 days?

By my calculations, if it takes 21 days to complete the group stages, each stadium will host close to seven matches in just three weeks. The stadium pitches will be roughed up.

So with that in mind, in future World Cups, more venues need to be built. An increase to 14 or 16 stadiums perhaps?

The cost of running a World Cup tournament could be escalating out of control. Countries bidding for a World Cup as a sole host could be a thing of the past. Joint bidding could be the rage.

Now what about Qatar in 2022? How could they possibly host a 40-team event in such a small country when they are struggling with great difficulty with issues surrounding a 32-team tournament?

Why do I have a feeling that Australia , Japan, Korea Republic and the USA have somewhat dodged a bullet with missing out on hosting 2022? Especially Australia.

Like many things in the past, it comes down to “FIFA politics”.

Platini will be contesting for FIFA president in 2015, and there is a fair chance that Blatter will go around again. Both men want extra countries from Africa and Asia in the tournament, which means both men are trying to get votes from CAF (Africa) and AFC (Asia).

Both men also want extra teams from Asia, so that it gives a country like China a better chance of qualifying.

At the inaugural World Cup in 1930 there were only 13 teams taking part,  increasing to 16 teams in 1934. By 1982, it expanded to 24 teams.

When France ’98 came around, the event expanded to the right number of teams in 32. History does suggest that the World Cup does expand from time to time.

Platini, a Frenchman. has been UEFA President since 2007. In that time, Platini awarded Euro 2016 to France, where many thought it could have gone to Turkey.

The 2016 Euros will expand from 16 teams to 24. Dragging the Euros out with more teams is a terrible concept.

Guus Hiddink, the Turkish manager at the time, was forthright in his opinion on the expansion.

“This proves once again that in top-flight football the game is run by politics,” Hiddink said. “Turkey were one vote short for getting the organisation of Euro 2016.

“UEFA gave the Euro 2016 finals to France, who have already had the tournament twice and they also had the World Cup finals in 1998. This does not feel right.

“I get the feeling that the actual bid was about other things. Otherwise the choice for France as hosting nation, the country of UEFA president Platini, cannot be explained.”

Platini wasn’t disturbed by his home nation France getting Euro 2016. In fact, he was on the front foot,saying that “When there is a Turkish president, then you can host a major tournament.”

That is what I called arrogance personified. He might be a Frenchman, but his behaviour has been closer to that of a turkey.

Let’s not forget the Euro 2020 event will be held over 13 different cities in 13 different countries – another controversial madcap decision by Platini.

At the end of the day, expanding the World Cup comes down to politics. It is a real pity that FIFA and UEFA administration is run by individuals who seem to value personal gain above anything else.

As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The World Cup should remain as a 32 team event.

Don’t ruin it Platini!

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