FIFA set to reconsider proposed format for expanded 2026 World Cup
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has revealed that the intended format for the 2026 World Cup will be re-assessed and three-team groups potentially scrapped.
The expanded 2026 finals spread across the United States, Mexico and Canada will be the first World Cup to feature 48 competing nations.
The intention to expand the competition by 50% drew criticism, particularly over the increased number of games and the potential to dilute the quality.
The FIFA Council considered several proposed formats, including an expansion to 40 teams with eight groups of five, and an expansion to 40 teams with 10 groups of four. A 48-team tournament with an opening playoff round before the group stage was also on the table.
But the preferred format, voted for in January 2017, was a 48-team tournament with 16 groups of three. Concern has since been expressed over the increased for potential for collusion in such small groups, as had previously been seen at the World Cup in 1982.
But Infantino has now admitted things will be considered again.
“After this World Cup and the success of the groups of four, absolutely incredible, we have to re-discuss whether 16 groups of three or 12 groups of four are better,” he said.
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The format seen in the 2022 World Cup – eight groups of four, followed by a 16-team knockout bracket – has been the same since 1998, which was the first World Cup with 32 countries.
There had previously been 24 teams at the World Cups since 1982, with the same format currently used for the men’s European Championships that sees a handful of third-placed teams progress from the group stage in place from 1986 to 1994 inclusive.
England will be considered failures if we don’t win Euro 2024
England defender Harry Maguire has revealed he will head to Euro 2024 with the mindset that anything less than winning the competition will be a failure.
The Three Lions have cemented their status as a strong tournament team over the last half-decade under the guidance of Gareth Southgate.
After reaching the FIFA World Cup semi-finals in 2018, England were only denied victory at Euro 2020 on penalties against Italy in the final.
There were high hopes that they could go all the way at the 2022 World Cup over the winter, but were narrowly beaten by reigning champions France in a hard-fought quarter-final.
England kicked off their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with a 2-1 win at Italy, and speaking to the press post-match, Maguire revealed his ambitions for glory in Germany next summer.
“I think for me, at my age as well, 30 years old now, I’m with a mindset of, ‘If we don’t win the tournament, it’s been a failure’,” he said.
“We’ve got to qualify first – I mean it’s a tough group, [but] we’ve come here and got an amazing result.
“But that’s my mindset. I’ve been at three major tournaments now and I’ve come so close. I believe we have the players to win it. We went into Qatar wanting to win the tournament. So ultimately, when we get knocked out, as a squad we’re disappointed. The performances were good, we kept the most clean sheets at the tournament, we were one of the top goalscorers despite going out in the quarter-final.
“I’m speaking on behalf of myself but I know from speaking to the other lads as well, they were really pleased that Gareth stayed [on as manager]. We’ve built something as a group and he’s been the leader of it. He’s been the one who’s given us hope and given us belief as a country to be successful in these major tournaments and, for sure, it benefits us for us for him to be in charge.
“These big tournaments are decided on the finest margins. We played really well in the World Cup and ultimately, we got knocked out by a good French team. A French team that we believe we can take on and if we play them ten times, we would give them a good game ten times and probably win more than we lose.
“However, they’ve proven over the years that they manage to get the job done better than England do. So it’s something that we’re working on. We have so much talent and so many young players coming through.”
Maguire recognised that England were simply beaten at the 2022 World Cup by a more experienced and successful international side in France.
Despite reservations over Didier Deschamps, the 54-year-old has an incredible tournament record – to have won one final and lost two others is a far better record than most other coaches in the history of football.
England hope to be on a similar path with Southgate, but as Maguire insisted, they need to win a tournament if they’re to be remembered fondly and without tinges of regret.
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