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World Cup Set To Expand To 40 Teams But It's Unlikely To Be Good News For Ireland

World Cup Set To Expand To 40 Teams But It's Unlikely To Be Good News For Ireland
By Conor Neville

Announcing that one wishes to increase the number of teams in the World Cup is a classic wheeze of an aspirant FIFA President.

When UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino, the man who pulls the balls out of the hat in the Champions League draws, said that he wanted to increase the number of teams in the World Cup from 32 to 40, it looked like an attempt to pander to the African and Asian federations.

But the proposal is being seriously considered. The Guardian report that the expansion is to be discussed at a meeting today. It is believed probable that the move will be voted through. If passed, the changes will take effect from 2026 onwards.

Given that Ireland have only managed to reach one of the five 32 team World Cups held since 1998, Irish supporters might be inclined to cheer the news that the numbers are to increase.

Read more: Get The Oxygen Masks Out - Ireland Are Flying Up The FIFA World Rankings

But not too fast. Predictably, it looks like the African, Asian and Oceanic federations are to benefit most from the news. Indeed, the impetus for the change arises from the soreness among the other federations at UEFA's alleged over-representation.

As it stands, UEFA has 13 places, Africa holds five, North and Central America hold a combined three and a half, South America has four and a half, while Oceania holds only a half spot (meaning the winner of the Oceania qualifiers faces a playoff against a nation from another confederation).

Ireland, of course, might dispute the notion that the status quo is weighted in favour of the European nations. For the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, Ireland had to get past Italy and France to reach the World Cup, while New Zealand reached the finals after beating Bahrain in a play-off. Smaller countries in the ultra-competitive UEFA section will still be as screwed as ever.

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Meanwhile, the ageing traditionalists, assuming they had any hair left, have probably pulled most of it out at this stage.

The great English football writer Brian Glanville was of the view that FIFA took a wrong turn when they increased the number of entrants from 16 to 24 back in 1982.

This, he said, seriously diluted the quality of the competing nations. If he's still around in 2026, he probably won't even bother watching.

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Read more: Balls Remembers The Night Scotland Went 'Beyond The Call Of Duty' To Help Out Ireland

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