| Critics round on 'political' World Cup expansion | Critics round on 'political' World Cup expansion
  1. | Critics round on 'political' World Cup expansion
    Critics of FIFA's decision to expand the World Cup to 48 teams were quick to blast it as a politically and money-driven…
    Top Stories

Zurich - Critics of FIFA's decision Tuesday to expand the World Cup to 48 teams were quick to blast it as a politically and money-driven ploy that will be detrimental to football's showpiece tournament.

But there was support -- particularly in Asia and Africa -- for FIFA president Gianni Infantino's expansion plan, unanimously approved by FIFA's ruling council and to be implemented at the 2026 World Cup.

In Germany, the reigning World Cup winners, reaction was mixed.

"I am not happy with the decision and would have wished that all the important questions about the organisation and the format had been completely resolved," said Reinhard Grindel, president of the German Football Association.

"But since the decision was taken unanimously by the FIFA council, it is important to respect it and look forward.

"My main worry is that the attractiveness of the matches will suffer."

Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff said he could "understand everyone who feels the increase of the field is a dilution (in the quality of the tournament)".

"Also for me, the increase to 48 teams for the biggest and the most important tournament in the world feels like it's too much," he said.

Berti Vogts, who won the 1974 World Cup with Germany and went on to coach his country, did not hold back.

"I'm very, very appalled, I don't want to believe it," he said.

"It's terrible. If you want to ruin something, this is the path you should take. I just don't understand it."

Javier Tebas, president of the Spanish league, made no attempt to hide his disgust.

"FIFA is doing politics. Gianni Infantino is doing politics," he thundered.

"To be elected he promised more countries at the World Cup. He wants to honour his electoral promises. But the promises made to professional football, he's not sticking to.

"It is without our agreement and it makes us very angry."

Football's powerful European Club Association also reiterated its opposition, describing the current 32-team model as "the perfect formula".

"We understand that this decision has been taken based on political reasons rather than sporting ones and under considerable political pressure, something ECA believes is regrettable," the body, which represents many of European football's biggest clubs, said in a statement.

New FIFA Now, a campaign group that says the scandal-plagued governing body needs to reform, labelled the expansion "a money grab and power grab".

"It will dilute the competitiveness of the tournament and, therefore, the enjoyment of fans," it said in a statement.

A confidential FIFA report seen by AFP projects a 48-team tournament would bring a cash boost of $640 million (605 million euros) above projected revenues for next year's finals in Russia.

Infantino said Tuesday's move would allow more countries to "dream" of qualifying for the World Cup -- Africa and Asia could be the big winners with a rise in their number of places.


  1. Travel peak comes as Chinese go home for Spring Festival - Top news
    01.21 / 01:36
    Chinese authorities have forecast a peak travel rush in the second week of China's 40-day "Chunyun," starting Friday, as many Chinese people are rushing back home for the Spring…
  2. Li: More foreign talent welcome - Top news
    01.21 / 01:35
    More foreign talent is welcome to China for innovation work and business, and the government will step up support in such areas as granting "green cards", project applications and intellectual property protection, Premier Li Keqiang said on…
  3. Mattis, Kelly confirmed as cabinet picks - Top stories
    01.21 / 00:13
    The former Marine general easily secured enough votes to become US President Donald Trump's defense secretary. Trump's homeland security pick was also…
  4. Former General Mattis confirmed as US defense secretary - Top stories
    01.20 / 23:52
    The former Marine general easily secured enough votes to become US President Donald Trump's defense secretary. More Trump nominees are expected to be confirmed throughout the…
  5. | Dolly's Montpellier move off? Sundowns want 'genuine' offer - Top stories
    01.20 / 05:43
    Mamelodi Sundowns released a statement, inviting more club's to make a 'genuine' offer for Keagan Dolly…
  6. McGuinness quits N.Ireland politics citing illness - Top stories
    01.20 / 00:13
    Martin McGuinness has announced he won't lead Sinn Fein into Northern Ireland's March elections. The former IRA commander said he was quitting politics due to illness and hoped to "make way for a new…
  7. West African countries halt Gambia military operation - Top stories
    01.19 / 23:11
    West African troops have reportedly halted their advance in Gambia to bolster mediation efforts. Thousands of soldiers from Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria have mobilized to pressure Yahya Jammeh to step…
  8. Merkel receives Obama's final call to a foreign leader - Top stories
    01.19 / 22:10
    Outgoing US President Barack Obama has phoned the German chancellor to thank her for her steady leadership. He said it was "fitting" that his final call to a foreign leader should be to…
  9. | Kuhn's long wait for another Proteas shot - Top stories
    01.19 / 17:47
    Heino Kuhn is set to make his first Proteas appearance in over five years in Friday's T20I against Sri…
  10. | Luke Shaw's agent hits out at United exit talk - Top stories
    01.19 / 15:24
    Manchester United left-back Luke Shaw will remain at Old Trafford, according to his agent Jonathan Barnett who slammed the…
  11. | Montpellier calling: Dolly's Sundowns exit looming - Top stories
    01.19 / 12:42
    Keagan Dolly’s transfer to Montpellier negotiations revealed that the deal is “almost sorted”, according to one of the agents involved in the negot…
  12. | AB: I'll prove I'm still good enough - Top stories
    01.19 / 09:38
    Star Proteas batsman AB de Villiers is "out to prove a point" after ruling himself out of three upcoming Test…
  13. | SAFA haven't started search for a new Bafana coach - Top stories
    01.19 / 08:37
    SAFA president Danny Jordaan has revealed that the search for a new Bafana Bafana coach has been put on…
  14. 'Many dead' in avalanche-hit hotel in Italy - Top stories
    01.19 / 08:29
    Several people have been killed after an avalanche hit a hotel in Italy following Wednesday's…
  15. | Kaizer Chiefs transfer update - Top stories
    01.19 / 07:57
    Kaizer Chiefs football manager Bobby Motaung provided an update on the current transfer deals the club are involved…
  16. Germany raises defense spending as it demands clear agenda from US - Top stories
    01.19 / 04:43
    German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has called on the US to clarify its foreign policy agenda. The future of transatlantic relations is in doubt as Donald Trump prepares to take over the White…
  17. ROK court rejects request to detain Samsung heir - Top news
    01.19 / 01:39
    A South Korean court early Thursday rejected a request from prosecutors to detain the heir apparent of Samsung Group, the country's biggest family-controlled conglomerate, despite alleged charges of bribery, perjury and…
  18. Local AfD leader's Holocaust remarks prompt outrage - Top stories
    01.18 / 21:13
    Jewish organizations and politicians have expressed horror after Thuringian AfD leader Björn Höcke called for an end to the culture of Shoah remembrance. The timing of his remarks was particularly p…
  19. Project Schmalbart: Among the anti-populists - Top stories
    01.18 / 19:09
    Members of Germany’s new anti-populist Schmalbart network have held their first meeting. Can left-wingers, conservatives, digital strategists and offliners work together to bring about meaningful c…
  20. | Dolly's agent speaks out against Sundowns - Top stories
    01.18 / 18:45
    Keagan Dolly's agent Paul Mitchell has slammed Mamelodi Sundowns of wanting to send the midfielder to Major Soccer League…