November 8 – Having brought it back on the agenda only last week, FIFA president Gianni Infantino appears to have backtracked on the chances of an expanded 48-team World Cup in Qatar in 2022.
Infantino recently told a post-Council meeting in Rwanda that FIFA was still “discussing” trying to bring 48 teams forward from its scheduled 2026 starting date to 2022, potentially sharing the tournament with Qatar’s neighbours.
“We are looking at it. If it is possible, why not?” he said. “We are discussing with our Qatari friends, we are discussing with our many other friends in the region and we hope that this can happen.”
However he appeared to take a far more cautious stance during a briefing in Zurich with selected media, saying Qatar’s size would make it hard to accommodate 16 more teams unless the competition was definitely shared.
“Can we do it for 2022? It is a difficult challenge,” Infantino said.
“We are in discussion with Qatar. It will be a very, very difficult challenge. What are the chances? Certainly small but what is wrong in discussing it?
“Personally, as president of FIFA, I would be very happy if some matches could be shared with some countries in the region.”
That seems increasingly unlikely given the ongoing political and diplomatic stand-off with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
But Infantino said football had the power to break the impasse if all else fails. “Football unites, builds bridges, that could be a concrete result.”
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