FIFA’s new boss, Gianni Infantino, definitely picked up some tricks from his predecessor.
It’s a given that campaigning in for any form of office comes with promises that are highly unlikely to be filled, right? One such promise that isn’t going away as far as Infantino is concerned, as reported by the Guardian, is the possibility of expanding the World Cup. In that sense he’s definitely taking things further than Sepp Blatter who seemed to mostly filled with talk when it came to this topic.
Sure, it was nice to see teams like Iceland and Albania perform admirably, or really well in Iceland’s case, in the recently expanded Euros but the flip-side was the overall level of football was very watered down. That was mainly due to team’s eyeing results with a microscope to navigate their way to the knockout rounds in a tournament that f$*#(@g Portugal won. I wasn’t a huge fan of the CONMEBOL/CONCACAF mashup in Copa America either but it was at least more entertaining. (Admittedly, I think Iceland is no fluke as their start to 2018 World Cup qualifying has shown and that’s down to how they’ve built their program from the ground up in recent years).
Of course, the promise of expansion helps win a few more votes from countries that would very much like the chance to trot out in the world’s biggest sporting event besides the Olympics. At what cost though? Certainly the level of play, issues with scheduling etc. and the small fact that the current proposed deals would see a majority of teams play two years to take part in one game to fly back home. Would those playoffs bring plenty of interest? Yes. One could also argue that the countries new to the experience will get better the more they come up against top opposition. Would that really be the case if the majority of them are playing one-off games to even make it into the tournament proper? I doubt it but Infantino doesn’t.
“Whether it will be 40 or 48, it was a positive discussion. I don’t agree it will dilute the quality,” Infantino said. “I would like to remind you that in the last World Cup, England and Italy were eliminated by Costa Rica. The level of football is increasing all over the world.
“In a 48 team format, the quality would be higher because the 32 teams would have a play off. The quality would improve and not decrease in any way.”
The quality wouldn’t be higher because of one-off games though ratings probably would and FIFA’s pockets may bulge a bit more. And, to be honest, there’s only one expansion that makes sense. If you want more teams, Infantino, and more games and more money(which is what you really want) why not just go to 64 teams and rename it June/July Madness with the same top 2 from each group going through and then a knockout round of 32 onwards? I’m sure one of your successors will bring that up so let’s just get straight to it. Except, we’re forgetting one thing. Increased workload for the players after grueling club seasons would undoubtedly drain the competition of its increased quality.
Let’s not forget that some of these teams already play in playoffs to get to the big show. They may not mind the possibility of an automatic spot but that really wouldn’t be the case as they are likely to be first in line for one of those playoff spots. So what’s the difference?
I should be happy with the idea of more football every four years but seeing as I’ll probably be sneaking to watch those games at work or, staying up late/waking up early, I’m not sure my schedule can take it. I think 32 teams and a month-long tournament is enough, and especially so when we’re talking about a one-game playoff.
I’ve said my piece but the articles below offer some interesting, and contrasting, views on the proposed changes and its something we’ll continue to hear about until a decision is made.