Idiotic World Cup expansion: FIFA take a gun to their own foot

Alec Swann Columnist

By Alec Swann, Alec Swann is a Roar Expert

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    ‘Right, so what we’re planning to do is have 48 teams in 16 pools of three.’

    ‘That’s a nice idea, all the kids will get to have a go.’

    ‘Kids?’

    ‘Yes, kids. This is a school sports day we’re talking about, no?’

    ‘Sports day?

    ‘Yes, sports day. You know, when we play games and get everybody having fun. Teams of three is ideal so nobody feels left out’

    ‘I think we must be having two different conversations. I don’t know what on earth you’re talking about with all this sports day nonsense.

    ‘Well what are you talking about’

    ‘The World Cup!’

    This, of course it should hardly need pointing out, is a purely fictional conversation but sometimes fiction would be a good deal easier to believe than fact.

    FIFA’s decision, as had been reported a few weeks previously and which came to fruition this week, to expand their flagship event by 50 per cent from 32 to 48 competing nations belongs in a story book, because it shouldn’t be given the time of day in a world where rational thinking exists.

    The peak of the world’s most popular sport, the tournament which has for years stood as the ultimate footballing prize, being diluted at the altar of money-grabbing by a gaggle of corporate flunkies is sad to witness.

    But the most depressing thing about it is the complete and utter lack of surprise.

    This is an organisation which has happily waded in the filth of corruption for many a year while all the time claiming those on the outside are sorely mistaken.

    Where a high-ranking executive can buy a flat for his pets, where another can launder money through shopping developments and, this has to be the best of all, where the collective can award their crown jewel to a country only second to the sun in terms of heat.

    So brazen, so overt and so thoroughly stupid that heavens knows how they have been allowed to get away with it but get away with it they have.

    And now we have the successor to Sepp Blatter, Gianni Infantino, deciding that the best way to curry favour, sorry, I mean spread the gospel, is to make a mockery of the big one.

    So when 2026 comes around, we can expect a mammoth event with an interminable number of group games (plenty of which will be dead rubbers given the thin spread of ability between the protagonists), the possibility of penalty shoot outs (Infantino’s idea you won’t be surprised to hear) and a competition that will only give more credence to the increasingly powerful club game.

    What should be a gathering of the world’s best will now be a party where kids who aren’t allowed to drink are invited and nick all the chips.

    It won’t be bad news for a number of nations who will now have the opportunity to dine at the top table but the World Cup shouldn’t be like this, it should be a meeting of the best teams the planet has to offer.

    And no doubt it will be but you’ll have to trudge through the schedule-filling mire to get to that point.

    So plenty of cons and not one redeeming feature.

    But hang on, how foolish of me. How can I miss the very obvious fact that this tournament will generate a huge increase in turnover and profit.

    Sorry about that.

    Alec Swann
    Alec Swann

    Alec Swann is a former Northants and Lancashire opener turned cricket writer. Outside of the joys of a Test match, Newcastle United and golf generally occupy his other sporting interests with a soft spot for the Newcastle Knights.

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    The Crowd Says (243)

    • Roar Guru

      January 11th 2017 @ 9:39am
      Magnus M. Østergaard said | January 11th 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report

      How exactly does the new world cup work?

      So 16 groups of 3, each play a game against each other first up, but where to from there? Does it go immediately into a R16? or is there a further group stage?

      • January 11th 2017 @ 9:43am
        Waz said | January 11th 2017 @ 9:43am | ! Report

        Straight to a knock out round of 32.

      • Roar Guru

        January 11th 2017 @ 9:54am
        Will Sinclair said | January 11th 2017 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        Top two in each group go through, incredibly…

        • Roar Guru

          January 11th 2017 @ 10:09am
          Magnus M. Østergaard said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:09am | ! Report

          Wow, so you can get through to the next round from the group stages on a draw? I guess this also increases the liklihood of an early exit from a bigger nation as well.

          • January 11th 2017 @ 10:15am
            Waz said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:15am | ! Report

            There’s no draws in the group stage apparently, all drawn games will go to penalties.

          • January 11th 2017 @ 10:17am
            Nemesis said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:17am | ! Report

            “Wow, so you can get through to the next round from the group stages on a draw?”

            We don’t know the format, but so what if you get through on a draw. You may not have been following football in 2006, but Australia qualified for the Knock Out Stage after drawing the final Group Match.

            • Roar Guru

              January 11th 2017 @ 10:26am
              Magnus M. Østergaard said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:26am | ! Report

              I meant more along the lines of they only play 2 matches so a draw and a loss could quite often be enough for a team to make the R32. I am not saying its a big issuing just posing the question. But Wazs point is interesting if being serious because it sounds like we are heading towards the early days of the MLS.

              What will be interesting is the lower ranked nations are far more likely to luck and scrap their way through to the R16 and the Quarters.

              • Roar Guru

                January 11th 2017 @ 10:29am
                Paul Nicholls said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report

                Vincent Hugh – Iooks like penalties for every match – to avoid collusion in the last group game

              • Roar Guru

                January 11th 2017 @ 11:09am
                Will Sinclair said | January 11th 2017 @ 11:09am | ! Report

                Surely the presence of penalties in the group stages will encourage negative football, especially from smaller nations?

                Park the bus, and wait for penalties…

              • January 11th 2017 @ 2:07pm
                Waz said | January 11th 2017 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

                Sides like Italy already park the bus in a group of 4. Good sides will deal with it, bad sides will complain “it’s not fair” after they’ve lost

              • January 11th 2017 @ 3:21pm
                Chris said | January 11th 2017 @ 3:21pm | ! Report

                Waz not sure Italy “park the bus” as you say.
                Having a good defensive structure doesnt mean a team is “parking the bus”
                They have won 4 World Cups because they can play.

            • January 11th 2017 @ 10:29am
              Truth Bomb said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report

              …but also won a game. I’m almost certain Vincent meant you could get through on one draw (and a loss). You can get through losing the last game if you won the first two

              anyway, looks like you would still need to win a penalty shootout to go through anyway

              So get thrashed by best team in group….hold the second team to a nil-nil draw and win on penalties could be a plausible strategy to survive to the knock out rounds

    • January 11th 2017 @ 9:43am
      Waz said | January 11th 2017 @ 9:43am | ! Report

      This article could only be written by a white, middle class male arguing in support of a system that unfairly excludes the rest of the world from a competition really there to benefit European nations, and so it doesnt appear overtly self-interested the argument is shifted to “quality” (which of course only the Europeans can provide along with a couple of their buddies from South America).

      The World Cup winner is about quality the competition is about more than that – it’s about participation, reach, inclusiveness, giving everyone a fair go. If you want to see what inclusiveness does take your kid to the state swimming championships and see his backside handed to him on a platter by much better swimmers then go back the following year and see him hit a PB and give the same kids a run for their money. Exposing more nations to the dream of the World Cup and competing with better nations will truly globalise this sport, anything else is an argument for a euro-centric competition that has no place in the 21st century.

      Well done to FIFA for seeing through the vested self interests of Europe and delivering World Cup opportunity to the 210 member nations for the first time ?

      • January 11th 2017 @ 9:50am
        pauly said | January 11th 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

        Some of the most memorable World Cup performances are the minnows that have dared – Senegal and South Korea in 2002; Australia and Ukraine 2006; Costa Rica topping a group that happened to have Uruguay, England and Italy last time around.

        Of course, those who follow cricket and the rugbies might struggle to understand this appeal as the former has now locked out non-Test nations and the latter two usually serves the non-traditional sides up as cannon fodder.

        • January 11th 2017 @ 11:55am
          Sydneysider said | January 11th 2017 @ 11:55am | ! Report

          “Of course, those who follow cricket and the rugbies might struggle to understand this appeal as the former has now locked out non-Test nations and the latter two usually serves the non-traditional sides up as cannon fodder.”

          The rugby world cup is expanding (although still dominated by the traditional powerhouses of NZ, South Africa, Australia and England) but yes the cricket world cup is definitely mickey mouse. I can understand why the ICC reduced the number of teams to 10 for the next cricket world cup with the lack of competitive nations playing the game.

          On the one hand, I think expanding the tournament is good for football around the world but on the other hand it devalues the achievement of actually qualifying for the biggest sporting event on earth.

          • Roar Guru

            January 11th 2017 @ 12:09pm
            Ben of Phnom Penh said | January 11th 2017 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

            That Japan-South Africa match was Hollywood stuff.

          • January 11th 2017 @ 1:14pm
            pete4 said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

            But in rugby 12 of the 20 teams automatically qualify for their WC

            • January 11th 2017 @ 4:40pm
              Lion Down Under said | January 11th 2017 @ 4:40pm | ! Report

              That is true in reality. But technically all sides have to qualify, those 12 qualify by finishing in the top 3 of their Group at the previous World Cup.

              I’d be happy for all sides to have to qualify for the RWC but there’s already too much international rugby union so you’d probably have to use the existing competitions which would mean 10 teams (6Ns plus RC 4) really would qualify automatically.

              In terms of the football World Cup I don’t understand why you couldn’t have 12 groups of 4, then a round of 32 with the extra game being made up by less qualifying games beforehand.

              • January 12th 2017 @ 7:19am
                Bakkies said | January 12th 2017 @ 7:19am | ! Report

                The European Nations Cup is used as a RWC qualifying tournament.

      • January 11th 2017 @ 10:13am
        John said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:13am | ! Report

        You’re kidding right?

        I bet you love participation awards so that every child feels like a champion.

        What are the qualifiers for? Show? You want to go to an event where world championships are awarded? Earn it. Even Olympians have to meet qualifying times to get to attend. Even marathon runners have to qualify for events like the New York marathon.

        You will end up with 50 10-1 games that no-one is interested in, with no crowds and little to no appeal.

        • January 11th 2017 @ 10:22am
          Waz said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:22am | ! Report

          Do you think the Olympics should be restricted to just 32 nations?

          Football is about participation first and foremost it’s not some arbitrary definition of quality, this will make the World Cup accessable to the whole world for the first time as qualification (which is still required) becomes fairer – that’s good for people playing the game, it will inspire global growth in the game, and in time it will even improve quality.

          One thing we didn’t see the European nations offering to do was reduce their allocation of World Cup spots lol

          • January 11th 2017 @ 10:44am
            GRbondi said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:44am | ! Report

            “Football is about participation first and foremost”
            Only if you’re in primary school.

            Tournaments with adult participants like the WC are about prestige, it actually means something to qualify because the road to earning qualification is so tough. It’s a cut throat world, boardrooms don’t hand out participation awards to its employees.

            • January 11th 2017 @ 11:50am
              Waz said | January 11th 2017 @ 11:50am | ! Report

              What a load of crap. At the moment we have a tournament that favours Europeans because they invented the game not one based on “quality”.

              Quality comes through winning the tournament not qualifying for it, the same quality hurdles are in place whether you have 32 or 48 teams qualifying. You still have to beat the best to win it don’t you?

              If we follow your logic why invite 32 nations? Why not just the best 2, 4 or 8?

              This will expand the game in Asia and Africa dramatically; that will increase investment in the game especially from governments who can see there is now a chance of qualifying for the tournament

              Increased investment will be seen in more facilities, better coaching, more participation, more leagues, increased participation will improve quality, more people will play football and more people will watch football, that will bring more sponsors, more professionalism will follow which will again increase quality, and the game will grow and grow and it will grow outsude of it’s European heartland.

              • Roar Guru

                January 11th 2017 @ 12:00pm
                Magnus M. Østergaard said | January 11th 2017 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

                What a load of crap. At the moment we have a tournament that favours Europeans because they invented the game not one based on “quality

                The UEFA currently has 27 of the top 48 spots according to the FIFA rankings, and 21 of the top 32 yet only 13 are able to qualify currently for the World Cup and only 16 will be able (expectedly). They do have the biggest allotment of teams, because they have the best quality nations.

                The World Cup already has a tough qualifying stage that every team has to go through, how is that not motivation. Isn’t gifting additional spots by relaxing the standards to make the WC bigger lowering the amount of investment required?

              • January 11th 2017 @ 1:21pm
                Waz said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

                The FIFA rankings are rubbish, they are self-serving rankings with little respect in the football world.

              • January 11th 2017 @ 12:02pm
                Agent11 said | January 11th 2017 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

                I agree with Waz but i’m also of the opinion- if it ain’t broke…

              • January 12th 2017 @ 7:38am
                Michael said | January 12th 2017 @ 7:38am | ! Report

                Waz wrote “This will expand the game in Asia and Africa dramatically; that will increase investment in the game especially from governments who can see there is now a chance of qualifying for the tournament”

                RIGHT THERE is the answer to why this article and many others like it were and will be written in this country!

                The ICC and AFL leaders are furious that FIFA through one fell stroke have permanently bolted the door shut forever to those sports leaders’ dreams of expansion throughout Asia and into Africa, especially by wooing and trying to turn the heads of those countries that have been up till this point in time, almost excluded from participating in the the world’s greatest cultural event.

                With so many more countries able to qualify and play in the WC and the resultant massive investment into Football throughout the Asian region especially China and India this decision is a massive and potentially fatal blow to those two sports!

          • January 11th 2017 @ 10:48am
            Torchbearer said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:48am | ! Report

            The definition of ‘quality’ is the ability to win qualification matches- it is not ‘arbitrary’!

            • January 11th 2017 @ 11:00am
              Waz said | January 11th 2017 @ 11:00am | ! Report

              Whether it’s 32 or 48 teams you’ll still need to win qualification matches right.

          • January 11th 2017 @ 12:48pm
            Perry Bridge said | January 11th 2017 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

            #Waz

            The irony of course is that there is a 2 year process of World Cup qualifiers that invites ALL FIFA nations to participate.

            Granted – the Olympics has a qualification process too – so nations can only send athletes who meet a minima.

            So – in neither case do we want to see all the qualifiers. However – the difference is that you can qualify for the Olympics via performances in domestic competitions. The FIFA qualifiers are part of the tournament proper – in a sense – as they are all internationals and a direct part of the process.

            Clearly – the FIFA WC is quite distinct to the Olympics – so, the comparison becomes redundant.

            How many nations should make their way to which ever hosting land?

            I do suggest – the expansion to 48 just makes it an all the more expensive operation to oversee and host. And perhaps all the less likely to be doable in a country like Australia (unless at some point all the other codes disappear and soccer is the sole winner of the code-wars).

            Going from 32 to 48 in this manner is looking like a bit of a ‘soft’ decision – trying to please all stakeholders by offending no one. Perhaps it is ‘win-win’. It does though make a bit of a mockery of the elite nature given that only a few decades ago it was only 16 nations. That’s a 200% increase since then. It also stretches out the length of the tournament – so, in ‘soft’ soccer households it increases the likelihood of switching off and watching ‘Family Feud’ instead – as after all – at the Olympics I watch precious few heats.

            • January 11th 2017 @ 1:27pm
              Waz said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

              It doesn’t stretch the length of the tournament it completes in the same time as the current version. It may create more hosting challenges as you say, there will be more teams present and there will be other issues associated with this. It’s also not a perfect system but neither is the current one.

              There’s a gross over reaction to this and people are hiding behind “quality” as an excuse for not having a truly global competition – having 48 member nations out of 211 compete is hardly overkill

            • January 11th 2017 @ 1:32pm
              Sydneysider said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

              Australia will never host a FIFA World Cup. I’ve accepted that.

              After 2022, only big countries like England, USA, China etc… could host the tournament on it’s own OR I believe the tournament will go “continental” eg. joint hosting by European nations for 2030, joint hosting by Asian nations in 2034 etc…

              • January 11th 2017 @ 1:51pm
                Beni Iniesta said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

                Uruguay/Argentina will host in 2030 – the Centenary Edition.

              • January 11th 2017 @ 4:50pm
                BrainsTrust said | January 11th 2017 @ 4:50pm | ! Report

                Australia should be one of the few hosting, having spent billions on new stadiums , with 48 nations the criteria for the minimum size needs to change with 48 nations and then Australia can host it once the new Western Sydney stadium is built, Argentina/Uruguay can think of no greater potential disaster to let them host it. FIFAs real problem has been the drain of funds by SOuth Africa, and Brazil. The nations overpromised for no sensible reason, then had fund shortages , then FIFA had to prop them up financially.

              • January 12th 2017 @ 11:14am
                Perry Bridge said | January 12th 2017 @ 11:14am | ! Report

                #Brains Trust

                “Australia should be one of the few hosting, having spent billions on new stadiums”

                Well – having seen how FIFA can change rules on the run with allowing Qatar firstly to bid and then to win – Australia could perhaps host, only thing is now I wouldn’t see it happening with quite the heavy hand that was predicted back in 2009 when all the talk was of shutting down all local opposition and having 100% access to stadiums etc.

                If Australia were to host it then I’d suggest, depending upon timings – that rival codes will keep on playing and the MCG, Gabba, Suncorp etc would not be handed over 100% to FIFA. Simply because – if FIFA can ‘flex’ enough on its rules to allow Qatar to host then FIFA can flex enough to allow a FIFA WC to ‘fit in’ to the Australian sporting calendar rather than obliterate it.

              • January 13th 2017 @ 11:22pm
                BrainsTrust said | January 13th 2017 @ 11:22pm | ! Report

                I think the Australian tax payer would be stupid to pay for all these stadiums and not take the full economic benefit from them through a world cup if it was on offer.
                If Australia had run down stadiums like Brazil then it would be incredibly stupid to bid for a world cup.
                Even know we see the amazing spectacle of ANZ stadium which could last for another hundred years being replaced by a billion dollar effort for no reason, another billion in Perth.
                Australia is now building the stadiums, and have the transport links and modern airports.
                Brazil had none of those, South Africa had very little , even Germany was nowhere near the position which Australia will be in.
                The 48 team format is the final piece in the puzzle, because it makes sense then to utilise all the 30k+ stadiums.
                I would say Australia should bid for a world cup with its upcoming infrastructure and see if its succesfull. The US did a world cup with exisitng NFL stadiums even though the fields were below minimum size. Sport calendars are changed all the time, the least of the worries should be catering to existing sport calendars like they are sacred. Look at what happened to the Sheffield SHield.
                A bit of gymnastics which will be a one off will not affect anyone. Didn;t they have to do it for the cricket world cup recently.

        • January 11th 2017 @ 12:42pm
          Chris said | January 11th 2017 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

          Yes you will end up with lopsided matches like Germany 7 v Brazil 1 lol

        • January 12th 2017 @ 6:16am
          Ryan said | January 12th 2017 @ 6:16am | ! Report

          If the football World Cup was about the best playing the best then it would be based on Rankings alone.

          Based on current world rankings Australia (47) would not make the cut off of 32.

          So thank your lucky stars its not the best of the best. Because your Mob would not be there either.

          • January 12th 2017 @ 4:44pm
            matth said | January 12th 2017 @ 4:44pm | ! Report

            Yes, but the rankings will only be fair if there is a proper league where all nations get to play an equal amount against other top nations. So when the European nations play each other it’s a self fulfilling prophecy.

      • January 11th 2017 @ 10:41am
        CG2430 said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:41am | ! Report

        Every FIFA member from every confederation may qualify now. If you aren’t Top 13 in Europe, Top 5 in Africa, Top 5 in Asia, best in Oceania and then some, etc (South America may have an argument for another place) then you don’t deserve to play in what is supposed to be one of the most prestigious sports competitions in the world.

      • January 11th 2017 @ 10:52am
        Chris said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:52am | ! Report

        Some good points Waz. I read somewhere that the 48 teams are quickly whittled down to 32 teams after 1 game. That means the first game each team plays is a knockout round. Anyone else read that? It’s a long way to go for one game if this is the case.

        • January 11th 2017 @ 11:03am
          Waz said | January 11th 2017 @ 11:03am | ! Report

          I personally would have preferred a 64 team comp with a straight knockout (and no group stages) but apparently the FIFA members didn’t fancy the prospect of one game and go home do this does guarantee every nation two games. But a swift move to a 32 nation knock out Cup is a good move imo

          • Roar Guru

            January 11th 2017 @ 11:27am
            Magnus M. Østergaard said | January 11th 2017 @ 11:27am | ! Report

            So basically a tennis open?

            • January 11th 2017 @ 11:52am
              Waz said | January 11th 2017 @ 11:52am | ! Report

              Yup. Why have groups of three or four teams playing off before the “tennis open” stage kicks in?

              • Roar Guru

                January 11th 2017 @ 12:08pm
                Magnus M. Østergaard said | January 11th 2017 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

                Because Tennis opens are done purely on rankings with the exception of a couple of Wild Cards and a WC qualifier. And are you are saying that at the next WC (2018 edition) the breakdowns should be as follows:

                CAF: 0
                CONCACAF: 3
                CONMEBOL: 7
                OFC: 0
                AFC: 1
                UEFA: 19 + Russia as Host = 20
                And a Wild Card chosen by Russia or perhaps Qatar as the next WC hosts.

              • January 11th 2017 @ 1:32pm
                Waz said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

                I wasn’t saying that at all lol ?

                FIFA doesnt have a ranking system that is comparable to tennis and it would be inappropriate to use the current one that they do have. FIFA’s objective is to have more teams from its 6 member federations represented in line with global growth of the game and not just “the best”.

                If it’s about “the best” and “quality” let’s just have the two best teams play off for the World Cup, they could call it the World Series and play it over 7 games lol.

              • Roar Guru

                January 11th 2017 @ 2:39pm
                Magnus M. Østergaard said | January 11th 2017 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

                I think I get where you are coming from. You want the World Cup to be an event of particpation and growth, rather than a showpiece event of the best nations duking it out on a world stage. Well I am more inclined on the latter, and I guess its ok that we have differences on what the World Cup should represent.

              • January 11th 2017 @ 4:13pm
                Waz said | January 11th 2017 @ 4:13pm | ! Report

                You misconstrued my point, I also want it to be the best nations slugging it out as well – I’ll take the best 48 nations though; you seem to want the best 32 but I can’t understand why you aren’t arguing for 16 or 8 tbh?

      • Roar Pro

        January 11th 2017 @ 10:55am
        Hutchoman said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:55am | ! Report

        Seriously? Is no opinion safe from allegations of racism these days?

        Whether or not you agree with the proposal and then various arguments in support of or against it, there is nothing racist in the story here.

        • January 11th 2017 @ 11:55am
          Waz said | January 11th 2017 @ 11:55am | ! Report

          Maybe it’s true though, Asian and African nations do believe the European nations protect their qualification rights at the expense of non-European nations.

          • Roar Guru

            January 11th 2017 @ 12:09pm
            Magnus M. Østergaard said | January 11th 2017 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

            0 Nations from Africa in the top 32 compared to 21.

            Rankings arent everything, but that is a pretty obvious picture.

            • January 11th 2017 @ 12:19pm
              AZ_RBB said | January 11th 2017 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

              But it would be pretty lame if the World Cup was just the top 32 countries in the world.

              Part of the World Cup’s job is to showcase the global reach of the game. Football is bigger than ever now and only getting bigger. It’s marquee event needs to reflect that.

              Europe will still have 1/3 of the teams despite only being home to only 1/10 of the world’s population. That discrepancy is completely justified because of their footballing strength.

              • Roar Guru

                January 11th 2017 @ 1:05pm
                Magnus M. Østergaard said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

                I get its a showcase event, but it is also an event to be called World Champions so it should be geared towards showing off the stronger nations. Honestly seemed like the AFC was just token in the 2014WC given their uncompetitiveness. (I Know Aus was in a tough group and we held our own against Spain?? for a bit).

              • January 11th 2017 @ 1:18pm
                AZ_RBB said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

                It still achieves that doesn’t it? There will be nearly 25 teams from Europe and South America. Most of them will be in the Ro32.

                In my opinion Europe should have 2 more spots.

            • January 11th 2017 @ 1:36pm
              Waz said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

              Vincent – the ranking system is a disaster and favours Europe in many ways. But, but, that said I’ve no doubt the better nations are in Europe – there’s more money, players, coaches, facilities etc so that stands to reason.

              A bigger World Cup will ignite football in many countries because it opens a previously closed door. That’s good for football.

              And if you want a competition between “the best” cut the BS and only invite the top 2 ranked teams. Even third place is an also ran

      • January 11th 2017 @ 1:09pm
        MelbCro said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

        Fantastic, introducing identity politics to everything. You are so virtuous.

      • January 11th 2017 @ 1:45pm
        Beni Iniesta said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

        Hang on – for the first time? An absolute minnow called Australia had managed to qualify for the last 3 World Cups without a need for a 48 team Finals!

        Hard to see why it needs change given that.

      • Roar Guru

        January 11th 2017 @ 3:24pm
        peeeko said | January 11th 2017 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

        could just as likely written by a brazillian or an Argentine. saying that he is from a country that is not a country (england) and somehow gets a team along with the privileged in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland

      • January 11th 2017 @ 4:04pm
        Lionheart said | January 11th 2017 @ 4:04pm | ! Report

        Bravo Waz, well said.

      • Roar Guru

        January 11th 2017 @ 6:32pm
        jeznez said | January 11th 2017 @ 6:32pm | ! Report

        Waz,

        Please see below the NSW Swimming Championship qualifying requirements – detailing how the required times are to be recorded and submitted. These aren’t an open championship.

        https://nsw.swimming.org.au/article.php?group_id=6651#EN

        All are invited to attempt to qualify (whether we are talking about the world cup of the state champs) but only those that make the grade get invited to the championship tournament.

      • January 12th 2017 @ 2:24am
        Geoff Foley said | January 12th 2017 @ 2:24am | ! Report

        All teams in the world already participate in the World Cup. The various qualifying tournaments around the confederations are not separate to the WC itself. The tournament held in Russia in 2018 is the World Cup Finals and the teams that reach the finals should be worthy of being there. 8.5 slots in Asia allows for the probability that a team like Thailand or Qatar, who struggle severely outside their own countries, will make the finals without having earned it through a steady increase in standard (although by 2026 the Thais may well be a top 5 Asian side). This is absurd.

        If it were me, the WC would be back to 16, or at a stretch 24, teams. Now that makes for a proper Finals tournament and a meaningful qualification phase.

      • January 12th 2017 @ 8:52am
        punter said | January 12th 2017 @ 8:52am | ! Report

        Well done Waz, well said.

    • January 11th 2017 @ 9:52am
      Nemesis said | January 11th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

      I’m a football fan & I think the expansion is a very good next evolutionary step for international football.

      Advantages:
      1) More nations get to be part of the biggest sporting event on the planet.
      2) More money
      3) More media interest in 16 nations who would normally not qualify = football becomes bigger & bigger
      4) Whilst there will be bigger disparity in quality, every match becomes critical and it’s almost a knock-out tournament from Match 1. So, minnows are given hope; huge pressure on the bigger teams. Just like Cup football

      Disadvantages
      1) Only 2 matches for 16 teams before they go home, instead of 3. But, for many teams the tournament is over after 2 matches currently
      2) The qualification process is diminished. For some nations (especially in Sth America) this could be a big loss of revenue. Also less crunch games for nations to test themselves before the Finals

      Of course, the biggest disadvantage will be the whinging & whining for the next 10 years; often from people who have little, or no, interest in Football.

      • January 11th 2017 @ 10:02am
        marcel said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

        I’m a football fan…and I think it’s a stupid idea

        We already have 2 weeks of uninteresting jockeying in the current format…

        The last couple of World Cups have convinced me it actually needs to shrink in numbers

        • January 11th 2017 @ 10:04am
          Nemesis said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:04am | ! Report

          No problem. You can watch AFL, NRL & Super Rugby during those 4 weeks. Apparently there’s plenty of sports for casual fans.

          • January 11th 2017 @ 10:07am
            marcel said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:07am | ! Report

            I’ve been activley involved in the game for over 50 years

            • January 11th 2017 @ 10:39am
              rasty said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:39am | ! Report

              Marcel, what happened to your original reply? It was far funnier than this one.

            • Roar Guru

              January 11th 2017 @ 3:27pm
              peeeko said | January 11th 2017 @ 3:27pm | ! Report

              looks like Nemesis put his foot in it there marcel

          • January 11th 2017 @ 10:37am
            GRbondi said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:37am | ! Report

            Quality of the tournament will be diluted.

            Didn’t get to qualify for the WC? Invest wisely, work hard and actually “earn” the right to be there.

            Medicine and Law at the prestigious Uni’s have incredibly high entry requirements. Why don’t they lower it? Because it dilutes the quality.

            • January 11th 2017 @ 3:53pm
              marron said | January 11th 2017 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

              If that’s true there’s something funny going on at my local medical centre because I can tell you it’s anything BUT quality, 99.95 ATARs or no.

              Here’s the thing about the “quality”… this new format will probably result in higher quality in the round of 32, because the also rans from the weaker confederations will be eliminated in the first stage. If European teams are better, they’ll make up more of the final 32 than they do currently.

              • January 11th 2017 @ 8:09pm
                bill said | January 11th 2017 @ 8:09pm | ! Report

                Exactly right. At the moment you have euro teams missing the wc who will now make the knock outs

              • January 12th 2017 @ 2:37am
                Geoff Foley said | January 12th 2017 @ 2:37am | ! Report

                I seriously doubt the voracity of the claim that European teams are better, Anyone who saw that amount of dross that was served up by a lot of the teams at Euro this year will know what I mean.
                Also see second tier Euro teams like Slovenia, Slovakia, Greece, England, Sweden etc absolutely stinking it up n recent World Cups.
                I reckon this could lead to more African teams making the 32 at the expense of those lower Euro teams.

              • January 12th 2017 @ 4:49pm
                matth said | January 12th 2017 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

                The great thing Geoff, is that now we will find out, won’t we.

          • January 11th 2017 @ 3:46pm
            aladdin sane said | January 11th 2017 @ 3:46pm | ! Report

            Errrrrrrghhhhh!

        • January 11th 2017 @ 10:56am
          Chris said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:56am | ! Report

          “We already have 2 weeks of uninteresting jockeying in the current format…”
          Really? Most groups these days go down to the wire as the gap between the “elites” and not so elites shrinks.
          I love the first 2 weeks of a World Cup as we get to see so many different styles of football being played.

          • January 11th 2017 @ 1:08pm
            AGO74 said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

            To an extent I agree with you but when you just decrease the chance of getting eliminated in round 1 by half, what do you think the tactics/mentality of weaker teams will be?

      • January 11th 2017 @ 10:30am
        DawsonsForest said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:30am | ! Report

        “I’m a football fan”
        Cool story bro

        You do realise that we as Australians are allowed to passionately follow multiple sports without being dismissed as casual sports fans. i.e. Outside of football we can also follow rugby and AFL.

        I know plenty of people who choose to spend their hard earned money on attending A-League, AFL and Super Rugby. Why are their opinions inferior to yours?

        • January 11th 2017 @ 10:50am
          Nemesis said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

          I’m only interested in football fans’ opinions on football matters.

          Who is a football fan?
          Anyone who follows football.

          Who is not a football fan?
          Anyone who doesn’t follow football.

          If you can’t follow this, I doubt you’ll understand the off-side rule.

          • January 11th 2017 @ 11:05am
            footballEK said | January 11th 2017 @ 11:05am | ! Report

            If I follow Rugby and Major League baseball outside of the A-League (My wife and I are members), does that still qualify me as a football fan? And more importantly are my opinions valid?

            • January 11th 2017 @ 11:35am
              Nemesis said | January 11th 2017 @ 11:35am | ! Report

              ALeague is a football competition.
              If you follow ALeague you follow football.

              It’s not that complicated.

          • January 11th 2017 @ 11:34am
            millane said | January 11th 2017 @ 11:34am | ! Report

            rule 1 in fussballs “well ‘ard” school of soccer extremism – its all or nothing

      • January 11th 2017 @ 11:16am
        Barto said | January 11th 2017 @ 11:16am | ! Report

        3rd disadvantage: Negative football as teams aim for draws in order to win the shootout in the group stage. Expect teams like UAE and Angola to spend years training park the bus football then head to the tournament to aim for a 0-0 draw to win the shootout. Draws will be worth as much as wins in this format.

        • January 11th 2017 @ 1:57pm
          Andrew Browne said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

          So, situation normal

        • January 11th 2017 @ 2:13pm
          Nemesis said | January 11th 2017 @ 2:13pm | ! Report

          “Expect teams like UAE and Angola to spend years training park the bus football then head to the tournament to aim for a 0-0 draw to win the shootout.”

          See this is the reason why I have no respect for people who don’t follow football.

          When has UAE ever “parked the bus”? UAE has one of the most gifted, technical footballers in Asia. They play high-intensity, flowing, technical football.

          And, when was the last time you saw Angola’s National Team playing? Angola didn’t qualify for the 2017 African Cup of Nations so it’s likely to be a while before they’re qualifying for a World Cup.

          If there is a major criticism of Asia & African football it is that they are not cynical in parking the bus to get results like the Europeans and Sth Americans.

          • January 12th 2017 @ 2:41am
            Geoff Foley said | January 12th 2017 @ 2:41am | ! Report

            I agree that the UAE in particular do look to play an expansive technical game, and good on them. But if qualification for the Round of 32 hinges on not losing heavily to a team like Brazil or Argentina, and then scrapping out a nil-nil penalty win, against a team like Nigeria or Mexico who you do not think you can beat, i think I know what the federation would be telling the coach to do, regardless of how you have been playing beforehand.

      • January 11th 2017 @ 1:05pm
        AGO74 said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

        Disadvantage number 3) if the penalty shoot out for a draw in group stages comes to fruition (I hate the idea of it, but logically it has to to avoid the collusion element) watch for a ten-fold increase in the number of teams parking the bus. Boring. Wake me up in round 2 please…..,

        • January 11th 2017 @ 1:09pm
          AGO74 said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

          Whoops – just realised I wrote basically same thing as barto above.

      • Roar Guru

        January 11th 2017 @ 3:27pm
        peeeko said | January 11th 2017 @ 3:27pm | ! Report

        agree on all counts Nemesis

    • January 11th 2017 @ 9:53am
      AZ_RBB said | January 11th 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report

      You say there are plenty of cons but then only mention one that being too many poor games.

      The additional 10(?) teams coming from Europe, Africa and South America is absolutely justified. They will all be very competitive. That just leaves 6 teams whose place is somewhat questionable. In another 10yrs I expect that number will be even smaller. Hardly a concern.

      But there are actual cons.

      This will increase the burden on the hosts limiting the number of potential hosts. I can see 2026 going to the USA and 2034 going to China both were going to happen regardless. 2030 is my concern as it really should go to South America but this will be a huge task for them even with joint bids.

      16 knock out games in the Ro32 is another concern. These games are often already defensive. Something needs to be done to push teams to attack in these games. I would suggest a points system whereby your margin of victory gives you a seeding for the Ro16 draw.

      The final games in the group stage are also a concern as it gives those teams an advantage. 12 groups of 4 would be nicer but it also throws up a lot of pointless games until you let third placed teams progress which was a big issue at the Euros.

      There are cons. But not enough to say no to a 48 team Cup

      • January 11th 2017 @ 11:28am
        Midfielder said | January 11th 2017 @ 11:28am | ! Report

        As wirh waz above brillant post

        • January 11th 2017 @ 12:21pm
          AZ_RBB said | January 11th 2017 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

          Cheers Mid.

          There’s no hiding from the fact that the 48 team format has its downsides. But it has plenty to offer as well. I’m certain come 2026 everyone will still be glued to the action.

          • January 11th 2017 @ 1:37pm
            Waz said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

            +1

      • January 11th 2017 @ 4:45pm
        Eden said | January 11th 2017 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

        I think this is clearly a quality vs corporate argument. Obviously the ideal number is one which delivers the most matches as possible at the highest quality possible, while having a reasonable schedule. This move dilutes quality, and increases revenue. FIFA have done it purely for money and politics – anyone arguing against that being motive #1 is delusional.

        My initial reaction was against the move – 48 teams seems like too many for my personal preferences while watching the WC. But I don’t mind the arguments that the world has progressed to a reasonable level of quality teams beyond 48 and we are giving some deserving nations a fighting chance.

        But you have raised the biggest issue and one which makes this irresponsible and that is the burden on the host nation. Brazil already had large protests over the inappropriate use of government funding on colossal stadia, and there were those reports circulating about the human rights violations in Qatar. This will just be a bigger tournament with bigger Infrastructure demands which FIFA never contribute towards. Hopefully they scale the stadia requirements to limited mega stadia and then medium or small stadia for fringe matches

      • Roar Guru

        January 11th 2017 @ 4:49pm
        Griffo said | January 11th 2017 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

        My thinking was that a tournament of this size will benefit FIFA if held in USA or China, particularly the first time through.

        But it is a strain on a single country unless FIFA relax their shiny new stadium builds or their pitch composition ( more artificial component to the grass to reduce wear and tear).

        Even then a joint bid should/will be more common. It might be a reason to increase numbers so that a multi-host confederation can still accomodate continental qualifications (particularly AFC and CONCACAF). More possibility of a joint New Zealand, Australia and potentially Indonesia bid…stranger things have happened.

      • January 12th 2017 @ 8:05am
        Michael said | January 12th 2017 @ 8:05am | ! Report

        By 2026 the USA may be the declared financial basket case that it actually is and therefore NOT be in any position to actually host the WC.

        Currently the US can just print money off their printing presses like cheap valueless confetti and throw it around like an offensive overbearing drunk at a wedding.

        All the while, just exporting away their inflation to the rest of the world and believing that it is their pre-ordained right to act like bludging parasites without neither penalty nor negative consequences of any kind!

        I don’t expect Brazil, India, China, Russia, Germany, France etc, etc, etc will allow this “FREE RIDE” on the rest of the World to continue on indefinitely into the 2020’s.

    • January 11th 2017 @ 9:58am
      Al said | January 11th 2017 @ 9:58am | ! Report

      So, presumably, one of top 16 seeds, one of seeds 17-32 and one of seeds 33-48 in each group. Judging by 2014 qualification:
      AFC (Asia): 4 or 5 places
      CAF (Africa): 5 places
      CONCACAF (North, Central American and Caribbean): 3 or 4 places
      CONMEBOL (South America): 4 or 5 places
      OFC (Oceania): 0 or 1 place(s)
      UEFA (Europe): 13 places
      Plus 1 for the host.
      I think it’s safe to say at least half, if not more, of the additional 8 qualifiers will be from UEFA – given how many highly ranked teams don’t qualify each tournament, when much lower ranked teams (like us) do.
      While this change won’t dilute the quality of the cup, it is going to make progression to the R16 basically impossible for many nations.

      Edit: Nevermind me, apparently we’ll have a R32.

      • January 11th 2017 @ 10:03am
        Nemesis said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:03am | ! Report

        “I think it’s safe to say at least half, if not more, of the additional 8 qualifiers will be from UEFA”

        No. This is not what’s being reported. The big winners are developing football regions: Africa, Asia, Concacaf & Oceania.

        48 places
        Europe: 16 (13 current)
        Africa: 9 (5)
        Asia: 8.5 (4.5)
        Sth America: 6 (4.5)
        Cent/Nth America: 6.5 (3.5)
        Oceania: 1 (0.5)
        Host Nation: 1 (1)

        • Roar Guru

          January 11th 2017 @ 10:21am
          Magnus M. Østergaard said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:21am | ! Report

          Oceania: 1 – NZ are guranteed a spot every WC. Lucky beggars :D.

          IS that a lot of spots for the CONCACAF?

          • January 11th 2017 @ 10:29am
            Nemesis said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report

            Don’t forget Tahiti qualified for the last Confederations Cup. Funny game football.

            • January 11th 2017 @ 10:41am
              GRbondi said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:41am | ! Report

              Tahiti qualified for the Confederatins Cup? What is your point?

              They were the best in their confederation. Now China, Bahrain and UAE will qualify having earned their 7th best placed title in Asia.

            • January 11th 2017 @ 11:39am
              Nemesis said | January 11th 2017 @ 11:39am | ! Report

              “Tahiti qualified for the Confederatins Cup? What is your point?”

              The point is someone said NZL is guaranteed a spot every WC. We have evidence that this is not true.

            • Roar Guru

              January 11th 2017 @ 12:18pm
              Magnus M. Østergaard said | January 11th 2017 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

              Neme, I was saying it in jest, just a little bit of banter.

              • January 11th 2017 @ 12:25pm
                Nemesis said | January 11th 2017 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

                My sincere apologies, Vincent Hugh.

              • Roar Guru

                January 11th 2017 @ 1:05pm
                Magnus M. Østergaard said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

                Thanks Nemesis, taken to heart.

          • Roar Guru

            January 11th 2017 @ 10:32am
            Paul Nicholls said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:32am | ! Report

            Mike Cockerill in SMH proposing Australia should move back to Oceania. Bad move – NZ might be tough. Will be much easier to qualify through Asia now.

            • January 11th 2017 @ 12:05pm
              Sydneysider said | January 11th 2017 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

              I disagree totally with Mike Cockerill .

              Australia and the FFA should stick with the AFC, because Asia (specifically China) will be the biggest economy in the world in a few years time, and economically Australia needs to align it’s policies with this region of the world.

              So I say no to Oceania. Who cares about hosting the event, it will cost a bomb to host with 48 nations!

              FFA, stay in Asia!

            • January 11th 2017 @ 12:34pm
              AZ_RBB said | January 11th 2017 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

              Funny article. He says crowds at WCQs are down but then says lets have WCQs vs Oceania nations.

              He also proposes we bid for 2034 and 2038. Whether we’re in Asia or not. We’ll be against China for 2034. I give us nearly zero chance either way. 2038 will certainly go back to Europe. Anything beyond that does not deserve speculation.

              • January 11th 2017 @ 3:56pm
                marron said | January 11th 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

                No more acl if we do that as well. Bizarre opinion.

            • Roar Guru

              January 11th 2017 @ 4:13pm
              Ben of Phnom Penh said | January 11th 2017 @ 4:13pm | ! Report

              Is Mr. Cockerill frightened of the competition at the national and club level we experience in the AFC? Certainly returning to Oceania will ease those concerns, even if the cost of flights and accommodation escalate.

            • January 11th 2017 @ 4:27pm
              Lionheart said | January 11th 2017 @ 4:27pm | ! Report

              Can’t agree with Mike Cockerill at all. Not least because of the quality games we have in Asia, in the AFC Cup and the WCQs, plus the ACL at club level. Absolutely no comparison to Oceania, which in my view ought to fold as such a small number of nations in the region.

            • Roar Guru

              January 11th 2017 @ 4:41pm
              Griffo said | January 11th 2017 @ 4:41pm | ! Report

              Ha, believing an automatic qualification through OFC is guaranteed is old school thinking.

              We need to stay in AFC.

              Can’t believe the move back is even being flagged in print.

            • January 12th 2017 @ 4:55pm
              matth said | January 12th 2017 @ 4:55pm | ! Report

              If we can;t make top 8 in Asia we don’t deserve to qualify

        • January 11th 2017 @ 4:44pm
          Mark said | January 11th 2017 @ 4:44pm | ! Report

          The four AFC nations that competed at the last World Cup did not win a single match among them. The African nations did not do much better.

          I think the current qualification system is already generous to African nations and particularly generous to Asian nations, which have not enjoyed any consistent success at World Cups.

          The quality of European teams that just miss out is already far superior to the quality of Asian and African teams that also just miss out (and, arguably, those that just make it). That problem will be even worse under the proposed system.

          FIFA’s own report into the new format acknowledged it would dilute the quality of the tournament. The biggest indictment on FIFA from this decision is that no-one is the slightest bit surprised that in a choice between money and the quality of its showpiece event, FIFA have taken the money.

          The FFA will probably lose out financially from this decision. Selling World Cup qualifiers to state governments and ticket revenue from the matches is an important revenue stream. How is the FFA going to sell these matches to governments and the public now that the qualifying format will just about guarantee us qualification? The AFC will have a challenge figuring out how to keep World Cup qualification interesting – I doubt they could continue with the current format, where in the current stage 4 out of 6 in each of the 2 group would qualify.

          • January 11th 2017 @ 8:20pm
            bill said | January 11th 2017 @ 8:20pm | ! Report

            Exactly right

          • January 12th 2017 @ 8:15am
            Michael said | January 12th 2017 @ 8:15am | ! Report

            Well of course FIFA will have to change it ALL back because Mark doesn’t like it!

            • January 12th 2017 @ 8:26am
              Mark said | January 12th 2017 @ 8:26am | ! Report

              Top quality contribution, Michael. Got any more brainwaves you’d like to share?

    • January 11th 2017 @ 10:06am
      marcel said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

      Next step….scrap qualification and invite everyone who wants to come !

      • January 11th 2017 @ 10:32am
        DawsonsForest said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:32am | ! Report

        48 team tournament is rewarding mediocrity, only because China and Gulf Nations are able to qualify.

        • January 11th 2017 @ 11:04am
          Waz said | January 11th 2017 @ 11:04am | ! Report

          The existing competition already does that. Just look at England lol

          • January 11th 2017 @ 11:09am
            DawsonsForest said | January 11th 2017 @ 11:09am | ! Report

            England finished first in their group for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. 6 wins, 4 draws and no losses.

            How is that rewarding mediocrity?

            • January 11th 2017 @ 11:58am
              Waz said | January 11th 2017 @ 11:58am | ! Report

              So if china or Iraq or Taiwan qualify for a 48 team World Cup by winning 6, no losses and drawing 4 games it won’t be mediocre then!

              • January 11th 2017 @ 12:11pm
                DawsonsForest said | January 11th 2017 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

                Well yes, if the three countries you mentioned above win six and draw four in their qualifiers then they would’ve earned their spot. But they would’ve qualified without the need for 48 team World Cup, they would’ve qualified under the current format.

              • January 11th 2017 @ 1:40pm
                Waz said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

                England only qualify because it’s a 32 team Comp. if quality is all we’re after it should be the top 2, 4 maybe 8 nations (I mean, where do you draw the line?) which should rule England out – let’s face it, they only make up the numbers when they qualify it’s not like anyone believes England are ever going to win it right?

              • January 11th 2017 @ 4:43pm
                DawsonsForest said | January 11th 2017 @ 4:43pm | ! Report

                In terms of accumulating points in the qualifiers, England actually did pretty well. Like I said, they have a terrible reputation in international football but no one can deny their right to quality when they did well in the qualifiers.

                Maybe they are there to make up the numbers, so will the other 16 nations in this new format.

              • January 11th 2017 @ 1:52pm
                rasty said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

                MMMmmm, when I was living in London there was quite a few million that did. Turned out to be false hope though, 🙂

      • January 12th 2017 @ 8:17am
        Michael said | January 12th 2017 @ 8:17am | ! Report

        Great idea!

        Just like the Aussie Rules, Cricket and RL WCs!

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