Zico hits out at the new proposal

Japan coach Zico has called a proposal to expand the 2006 World Cup finals to 36 teams "ridiculous," arguing that the enlargement could destroy the tournament's credibility. The Brazilian, who played in three World Cups, warned that an expanded format would cause fixture congestion, place added strain on players and ultimately dilute the quality of the competition.

"First, even 32 teams are too many. Increasing the World Cup to 36 teams is obviously a political decision. It's a ridiculous idea," Zico said. "It makes no sense from a football point of view. More games will mean less recovery time before and during the World Cup, which will make it even harder on the players."

Zico, who won 78 Brazil caps scoring 54 goals, pointed to the likes of David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo in illustrating how the physical demands on players were already too heavy.

"Look at Beckham, Zidane, Figo and (Juan Sebastian) Veron. Condition-wise, none of them were right (at the 2002 finals). They were either carrying injuries or totally exhausted," said Zico, the 1983 World Footballer of the Year.

"On the other hand, Ronaldo and Rivaldo looked really sharp and that made the difference for Brazil. England, France, Portugal... their best players were too tired."

A 36-team World Cup will not be ratified until a workable format, due to be submitted by South America, is approved by world body FIFA, whose 24-man executive committee will hold a final meeting on the proposal in Paris on June 28-29.