The football world has been abuzz after the news that from the 2026 tournament, FIFA has voted to expand the World Cup to 48 teams from its current 32.
From what I can gather from twitter the overall response has been negative, especially from Australian fans, which is surprising considering that expansion helped us getting into the World Cup when part of the Asian Confederation. As Craig Foster stated :
Access to four guaranteed spots also gives us the opportunity to avoid the do or die scenarios of the past, and we grow quickly through three consecutive appearances, the last two being directly secured.
But how did Asia get four and half spots? Through expansion from 24 to 32 teams in 1998 (in 1974, Asia and Oceania had one spot combined; Asia one in 78; three and a half in 98 and four and a half in 2002).
I wonder if the reaction would have been different if this expansion was accepted back when Australia was part of Oceania and we failed to qualify for more than three decades.
The main argument against the expansion is that this is a cynical money grabbing exercise by FIFA, and that may be true. There are very powerful nations which are putting lots of money in football, especially in Asia, that will finally get a spot.
The other argument, and the one that seems to be the main objection, is that the World Cup should be a meeting of the best teams the planet has to offer, and instead there will be mediocre teams that somehow ‘do not deserve’ to be there.
I am sorry, but this is nonsense.
The World Cup is not like the Olympics where every nation has the possibility to participate. There is a qualifying process which is already skewed.
The World Cup is not a competition of the best teams in the world. Is a competition between the best teams from each confederation. And where there are two confederations which have the strongest teams: Europe and South America.
This makes qualification in those two confederations much harder. Netherlands did not qualify for 1982 world cup while New Zealand did. Argentina may risk qualifying for Russia but we may see Panama there. In all the World Cups Australia failed to qualify arguably there were worse teams than us playing. There is no level playing field.
The level of football has increased throughout the world and this means that it is unlikely to be really hopeless teams among the 48 teams.
Look at what teams a 48 World Cup would look like according to current rankings. It’s not bad. I don’t see many that would be totally overwhelmed.
On current rankings and expected confederation split, a 48 World Cup would include these teams. pic.twitter.com/U5wARYRewN
— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) January 10, 2017
So let’s have more people at the party. I think it will be fun.