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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    The Crowd Says (58)

    • November 7th 2013 @ 3:29am
      Johnno said | November 7th 2013 @ 3:29am | ! Report

      Yes. Im sick of European teams missing out, to unimportant African and Asian, and Oceania teams, all insignificant who don’t contribute to the beautiful game, the World game, the history and culture, like the Europeans. Europe has all the big leagues, and all the prestige out side of the other Big 3 South American teams.
      It’s a joke that in 2010 World Cup teams like Russia/Czech Republic/Ukraine/Norway/Turkey, should have to of missed out to Algeria(Africa) and NZ(Oceania).
      Russia under Hiddink were desperately unlucky in 2-leg play off to Slovenia. Europeans should dominate the World Cup even more, as they have the best teams, and the best leagues. No wonder some Europeans say the Euro championships are more prestigous than the World Cup. it’s a real contest a Euro Vision of real football,not 2-bit despot football nations, who in exchange for a few votes every now and then with footballs elite, get a few more spots. So this will increase the quality.
      Ask yourself at World cup 2010 who would you rather watch Hiddink’s Russia, or Algeria or NZ. Enough said.
      I wish the world cup could just be the best 32 teams, and have global qualifiers. Most of the players play in europe anyway, and all the south americans and aussies fly down there way for the week, when 2 matches are played and all the leagues have a rest.
      so 40 will be good as more UUFA teams from Europe will enter the FIFA World cup, and increase the standard of the World game and World Cup. The World cup is not a development comp, it should be a true World Championship to find out the best of the best, that’s a true contest, not a tournament set up as a development comp, or pathways for emerging football countries to have honorauble 1st round exits or heroics 2nd round effort to make the 2nd round(socceroos). Make the world cup a true world championship, save the development stuff for the Danish Super Ligue, or the A-league, or the Norwegian or Scotish 1st division, these comps, or the Belguim 1st division.

      • Roar Guru

        November 7th 2013 @ 7:21am
        Fussball ist unser leben said | November 7th 2013 @ 7:21am | ! Report

        @ Johnno

        Based on the percentage of teams that progressed from the Group Stage (GS) to the Knock-Out Stage (Ro16) at 2010 WC there is nothing to suggest UEFA needs more places.

        Ideally, we’d like 50% of teams from each Confederation progressing from the GS to Ro16, so there could be a case mounted for more places for CONMEBOL & CONCACAF.

        2010 World Cup
        % of Nations from each Confederation that Qualified for Ro16

        AFC: 50%
        CAF: 17%
        CONCACAF: 67%
        CONMEBOL: 100%
        OFC: 0%
        UEFA: 46%

        I notice you posted your “insights” at 3:29 a.m. … I wonder what your breathalyser reading would have been? 😉

        • November 7th 2013 @ 10:10am
          Johnno said | November 7th 2013 @ 10:10am | ! Report

          Fuss it was getting pretty high, watching old Euro Vision DVD’S was making me get preety excited maybe over the limit lol.
          AFC has done well that really surprises me. One could blame the ball the Jabuilani, helping the AFC nations, as it was so hard to control it restricted the set pieces and headers where the tall Euro lads could jump and win the aireal battle.
          But once can’t deny Russia or Czech Republic are stronger in 2010 than NZ were, despites NZ’s 3 draws and going undefeated.

      • November 8th 2013 @ 2:49pm
        Clark said | November 8th 2013 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

        Nz were the only unbeaten team at the last world cup. However it would feel hollow to basically be given a free ride to the world cup, i would rather we earned our place and be competitive like we showed in 2010. Without Winston Reid for our home/away games against Mexico, it looks like a tough ask indeed to get there again.

      • February 27th 2014 @ 5:53am
        hg said | February 27th 2014 @ 5:53am | ! Report

        I think we should go ahead with 40 because for the smaller teams it gives them a extra game where 3 seems short personally I like seeing the smaller nations playing because of the new players you have never heard of forget political stuff all FIFA want to do is to spread the game around the world

    • November 7th 2013 @ 5:06am
      1860melbourne said | November 7th 2013 @ 5:06am | ! Report

      Elections are coming round. Septic Bladder will do anything for votes!

      • November 7th 2013 @ 12:35pm
        Kasey said | November 7th 2013 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

        There are already mediocre teams making World Cups, who could forget Saudi Arabia’s 8-0 thrashing at the hands of Germany in Our timezone! If ever there had been a World Cup tailor made for the Socceroos to quaify for maximum benefit it was Japorea in 2002. Even ch9 got in on the broadcasting act! What a commercial gold mine that would have been.
        Vidmar’s tears in Montevideo surely mirrored those of Soccer Australia chairman Ian Knop who quit (Along with Nick Greiner) not long after IIRC. Watching gumby’s like the Saudis stink up the World Cup just made missing out even harder to take.

        As for expansion, more teams would result in more ‘product’ which means more money for FIFA so I can see Sepp-tic pushing this one quite hard. I’d prefer it to stay at 32 but IF we do have to go to 40, I would hope that FIFA would take the opportunity to use the extra WC slots as bargaining chips for a restructure of the Confederations, doing away with OFC and splitting AFC into East and West Asia.

        Remember its the World Cup, representing the World, not the Champions Trophy. 32 teams representing the World’s 200+ football playing nations not neccessarily the ‘best’ 32 nations in the world. I’m sure at the beginning of WC06 there were plenty of Euros questioning the ‘right’ our Socceroos had to be there.
        Hell in the minutes after the disaster in Durban in 2010 *I* questioned our right to be at the World Cup: (

        • November 7th 2013 @ 2:29pm
          kraftbier said | November 7th 2013 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

          Part of the motivation here is that no Gulf Arab (GCC) nation has qualified for the second consecutive time. FIFA are scared the sheikhs will take their petrodollars (or should I say petrodirhams) elsewhere. Widening the path would let them in.

          Embarrassment is also caused by the fact a GCC nation is supposed to be hosting the big show in less than 9 years time.

    • November 7th 2013 @ 5:32am
      1860melbourne said | November 7th 2013 @ 5:32am | ! Report


      What on earth are you on about? At the last WORLD CUP the following European nations didnt make it past the Group Stage: Denmark France Greece Italy Serbia Slovenia Switzerland. With ITALY FRANCE SERBIA ending up at the bottom of their groups!! Roughly half the European teams that qualified didnt even make it out of their group!

    • November 7th 2013 @ 6:52am
      roni said | November 7th 2013 @ 6:52am | ! Report

      40 teams is better, 16 European teams, 6 South American, 8 African, 4 North American, 6 Asian

      Europe 8 groups top 2 advance
      South America 2 groups top advance
      Africa 4 groups top 2 advance
      North America 2 groups top 2 advance
      Asia 2 groups top 3 advance

    • November 7th 2013 @ 7:46am
      Ben said | November 7th 2013 @ 7:46am | ! Report

      It’s the world cup not the Euros, of course not every European team will qualify. I’d rather see a side like Honduras over Greece, Denmark or Republic of Ireland anyway.

      • November 7th 2013 @ 4:46pm
        Andy said | November 7th 2013 @ 4:46pm | ! Report

        I completely agree. Greece may have won the Euros in 2004 but they are not a side I want the pleasure of watching. The fact that so many other nations get a chance is a good thing. I love to watch counties you seldom see play, not the same old over and over.

    • Roar Guru

      November 7th 2013 @ 8:26am
      Mike said | November 7th 2013 @ 8:26am | ! Report

      Personally I have no problem with more teams. I do love the even-numbered, mathematical and easy divisible #32, but I’d be happy with 40. It’s hard enough waiting for 4 years for that one month event, so a 5-week long event might just (slightly) ease that pain some more.

      I think a definite motive behind this could be the Asian market. After all, if China qualified, that’s a potential audience boost of 1.3 billion fans. Plenty of them will already will be watching it anyway, but they’re very patriotic when it comes to a national sporting team. Other huge audiences would be India and Indonesia, but I can’t see them qualifying any time soon (which is unfortunate for Indonesia, because they live and breath football. Maybe one day).

      It’s no secret that the best teams on Earth are in Europe but, as the others above said, some of them didn’t even make it out of the group stages. They have the Euro competition for them to get behind. The WC is, as the name suggests, for the whole world. The only other system they could try, which would fail miserably, would be to allow the top-ranked 32 teams to automatically qualify, but I couldn’t even begin to imagine the consequences this would have. Plus it would just essentially become the Euro’s with a few South American teams, and a handful of others.

      • November 7th 2013 @ 8:47am
        jamesb said | November 7th 2013 @ 8:47am | ! Report


        Initially I was happy to hear about a 40 team world cup. As I said in the article, much easier for the Socceroos to qualify. The problem is I question the motives behind this move. The likes of Platini and Blatter can not be trusted. That’s why for now let’s keep it as a 32 team event.

        Again, I’d be happy if it did went to 40 teams. I just hope it is done for the right reasons.

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