FIFA to stick with 32 teams for 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar

Reuters Manchester, UK May 23, 2019, 08.20 AM(IST)

A replica of the FIFA World Cup Trophy. Photograph:( Reuters )

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FIFA President Gianni Infantino had proposed expanding the tournament and explored the idea of adding additional host nations

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be held with 32 participating teams and not an expanded 48 teams, organisers FIFA said on Wednesday.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino had proposed expanding the tournament and explored the idea of adding additional host nations.

But the sport's world ruling body said in a statement, "Following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process with the involvement of all the relevant stakeholders, it was concluded that under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made now."

FIFA and Qatar also looked at whether the Gulf state could host an expanded tournament alone by changing the normal requirements for facilities.

"A joint analysis, in this respect, concluded that due to the advanced stage of preparations and the need for a detailed assessment of the potential logistical impact on the host country, more time would be required and a decision could not be taken before the deadline of June," FIFA said.

"It was, therefore, decided not to further pursue this option", FIFA added.

Infantino began to back away from the idea in March when after a FIFA Council meeting in Miami he said, “If it happens - fantastic. If it doesn’t happen - fantastic also”.

Qatar World Cup organisers said they had always been open to an expanded tournament if a "viable operating model" had been found.

"A joint analysis concluded that due to the advanced stage of preparations and the need for a detailed assessment of the potential logistical impact on Qatar, more time would be required and a decision could not be taken before the deadline of June. It was, therefore, decided not to further pursue this option," they said in a statement.

"With just three and a half years to go until kick off, Qatar remains as committed as ever to ensuring the 32-team FIFA World Cup in 2022 is one of the best tournaments ever and one that makes the entire Arab world proud", the statement added.

The 2026 World Cup, to be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico, is scheduled to feature 48 teams and given a large number of stadiums available is unlikely to face any logistical problems.

The obstacles to a 48-team tournament in Qatar were numerous and some of the natural partners for joint-hosting in the Gulf were ruled out due to a deep political and economic rift in the region.

The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and non-Gulf state Egypt cut political, trade and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017.

Those countries accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism, which it denies.

FIFA’s study said the blockade would need to be lifted before there was any chance of those countries hosting matches.