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The FIFA President's Controversial World Cup Changes Should Make Things Easier For Ireland

Conor Neville
By Conor Neville
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It's going to become harder and harder to avoid qualifying for a major tournament if new FIFA Pres. Gianni Infantino gets his way.

He is eager to see the tournament expand to either 40 or 48 teams from 2026 onwards, assuming, of course, the World Cup is still going following Qatar.

His preferred proposal is the more the merrier option of 48.

He does not, we hasten to add, envisage 12 groups of four being whittled down to 24 or 32 teams following the first phase.

No, he wants there to be 16 seeded teams who are automatically plonked in the group phase. The remaining 32 will face each other in a playoff match for the right to enter the group phase.

This raises the possibility of fans flying home after one match.


The likes of Brian Glanville, who got the hump when the numbers were raised from 16 to 24 back in 1982, will be shaking their head in disgust.


Infantino argued that the quality of the entrants would not be diluted by the proposal, a difficult proposition to argue.

Whether it will be 40 or 48, it was a positive discussion. I don’t agree it will dilute the quality. I would like to remind you that in the last World Cup, England and Italy were eliminated by Costa Rica. The level of football is increasing all over the world.

In a 48 team format, the quality would be higher because the 32 teams would have a play off. The quality would improve and not decrease in any way.

No decision has been made yet but Infantino said the response to the proposal was positive. His point that the proposal would aid football participation and the finances of the countries that qualified was presumably persuasive.

From an Irish point of view, the plan is obviously a goer. We first qualified for the World Cup after it had expanded to a 24 team event. It will be far more difficult to miss out on a 48 team tournament. Even Scotland would struggle to miss out.

Not only that but our chances of reaching the final 32 would be increased by the possibility of a playoff against a non-European nation.


We've long been screwed by our position as a small nation within football's most competitive continental block. The last time we qualified for a World Cup, we did so via a playoff against an Asian Football Confederation - step forward Iran.

By 2010 - the next time we reached a World Cup playoff - that possibility was off the table and we met France.

Read more: The Reaction To Scotland's Defeat Proves They Are The Most Self-Deprecating Nation On Earth

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