It has been known for some time that new FIFA president Gianni Infantino has favoured the expansion of the World Cup to include 48 teams, and now we are getting a better insight as to how that may work.
AFP are reporting that Infantino supports a tournament consisting of 16 groups of three teams.
#BREAKING Infantino backs 48-team World Cup with 16 groups of 3 - FIFA
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) December 7, 2016
It is unclear as to how many teams will progress from the groups, and whether the first knockout round will consist of 16 or 32 teams. If it is the former, that would mean that only the top side in each group will progress. That would be some level of relief, but if it is a round of 32 - which, we must admit, would not be an enormous surprise - it would mean that only the bottom side in each group would be eliminated.
Should the second of those options come to pass, this would mean that group stage games would not be played concurrently, leaving the competition open to the abuses that afflicted the 1982 World Cup, generally referred to as the "Disgrace of Dijon". Austria and West Germany played knowing that a win by one or two goals for West Germany would ensure both teams progressed, as group rivals Chile and Algeria had played the day before.
Believe it or not, the game finished 1-0 to West Germany in one of the least competitive games in World Cup history. It drew such ire that FIFA changed the structure so that the final round of group games were played at the same time.
The 16-group format is different than what was expected.
It was suggested that the first round of games played would be in essence be a playoff, with sixteen seeded sides going into a group stage, with another sixteen nations joining them having come through a playoff round, mirroring the set-up of the Champions League.
Blatter would never ever have got away with nonsense of this magnitude. Fact. https://t.co/Z9V0pYNPCv
— Philippe Auclair (@PhilippeAuclair) December 7, 2016
Maybe Infantino just couldn't resist the chance to make another draw for a competition.
But fair to say that this will screw the competition once and for all.