FIFA president ‘optimistic’ about 48-team Qatar World Cup

Qatar, which says it is preparing for a 32-team competition, said it would have a say before deciding to move to an expanded tournament that would lead to logistical and political complications.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino is campaigning to implement the reform of increasing the number of teams that will participate in the World Cups from 32 to 48, as early from 2022 .   -  MURAD SEZER

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said on Friday he was “optimistic” about organising the 2022 World Cup in Qatar with 48 teams instead of 32 but warned that it would be “not easy”.

“I'm optimistic but is it easy? No, it's not easy, I have to be honest,” said the boss of the International Football Federation at a press conference in Istanbul after a three-day executive summit.

FIFA has decided to increase the number of teams that will participate in the 2026 World Cup from 32 to 48 but the Italian-Swiss president of the world football governing body is campaigning to implement this reform as early as 2022.

FIFA is due to announce its decision in mid-March at a meeting in Miami.

Qatar, which says it is preparing for a 32-team competition, said it would have a say before deciding to move to an expanded tournament that would lead to logistical and political complications.

While Infantino has raised the possibility of organising meetings in neighbouring countries, a serious diplomatic crisis pits Qatar against its neighbours including Saudi Arabia -- which since 2017 has imposed an economic blockade to the gas rich state.

“I am not that naive to overlook the political situation as well in the region,” said Infantino while adding that “football can work miracles sometimes.”

Taking the example of the 2026 World Cup that will be organised by Canada, Mexico and the United States, Infantino said that “there are a lot of debates about a wall being built” between the United States and Mexico but “these two countries will organise a competition together so they will have to work together.”