FIFA president Gianni Infantino is thrilled with the opening round of matches in this World Cup which have thrown up some surprising results and have ensured a knockout participant from every continent of the world.
“I have seen all the matches, and this has been the best group stage of a World Cup ever. The matches have been of great quality in beautiful stadiums,” said Infantino, who has often faced a barrage of boos when in-stadia cameras have panned on him during matches. “There are no more small teams and no more big teams. The level is very equal. For the first time, national teams from all continents [are] going to the knock-out phase. This shows that football is really becoming truly global.”
The FIFA president said the matches had “over 51,000 on average [spectators]. Record-breaking figures on TV – we already had over two billion viewers,” but few games in Doha did suffer from less-than-full stadiums. The FIFA skyboxes meant for sponsors and other high-ranking individuals particularly bore a deserted look on many occasions.
Infantino expects “we will reach the five [TV] billion viewers around the world,” before the tournament ends and is also hoping that the on-field action will continue to be as riveting as the first 56 games.
“We simply want to give some joy and some smiles to people all over the world. That’s what football is about, that’s what the World Cup is about, and that’s what should happen from now until the end. We have already seen some great action on the field, which, finally, is the most important part of what you do, some of the biggest stars performing very, very well,” he said. “Now, we reach, really, the top competitive phase where, of course, the big stars, the big players, the big teams, will make the difference on the pitch. So, I hope, we will see a fantastic conclusion of this World Cup.”
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