Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 October 2019

Xavi says 48-team Qatar World Cup would be 'too much and too long'

Former Barcelona midfielder, who lifted the World Cup with Spain in 2010, says 32 teams 'more than enough'

Former Barcelona and Spain midfielder Xavi has urged Fifa to scrap proposals to increase the 2022 World Cup from 32 teams to 48.

An internal feasibility study supporting the expansion, which is being strongly pushed by president Gianni Infantino, was given full backing by the Fifa Council in Miami last Friday.

A final decision will now be taken in Paris on June 6 after the world football governing body and Qatar jointly submit the names of potential co-host nations to the governing body's Congress.

The World Cup will feature 48 teams for the 2026 edition, to be co-hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada with 80 matches taking place instead of the 64 for a 32-team event.

However, Xavi, who won the World Cup with Spain in 2010 and is seeing out his career in Qatar with top-flight club Al Sadd.

"It's too much and too long. Imagine 48 teams in Qatar, it will not be good in my opinion," Xavi told reporters in Mumbai on Monday.

"It's still for the organisers to decide, but for now Qatar is doing everything to prepare for 32 teams and it will be difficult to change it for more teams. Also, it's good for football to have 32. That's more than enough."

The move away from the traditional 32 teams which will see 80 matches instead of 64 means one or more other countries will be asked to help Qatar stage the shortened 28-day event which is scheduled to kick off in November 2022. It will mark the first winter World Cup in history.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that Oman and Kuwait could host some matches under Fifa plans given the ongoing diplomatic fallout between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain.

The Qatari organising committee for the 2022 World Cup gave a lukewarm response to Friday's decision, saying organisers would continue planning for a 32-team event.

"We will work with Fifa to determine whether or not a viable operating model does exist and importantly, whether it is in the best interests for football and for the tournament, and for Qatar as the host nation," a spokesman for Qatar 2022 said.

"Until we reach that conclusion, we will continue to work toward hosting a 32-team World Cup."

A 48-team World Cup increases the number of places available to teams of every confederation, with Asia granted eight slots – an increase from 4.5 (four direct and one via an inter-confederation play-off), and not including the host nation. The draw for qualification takes place in July, with the second round of Asian qualifiers – where the UAE enter – beginning in September. The third round will start 12 months later. The first two rounds double as qualification for the 2023 Asian Cup.

The study by Fifa said a 48-team tournament would generate an additional US$400 million (Dh1.47 billion) in revenue for football's world governing body.

Updated: March 19, 2019 11:48 AM

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