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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Qatar wants talks with Fifa to expand World Cup for 48 teams in 2022

Qatar's infrastructure is already stretched by the requirements and the changes would see the number of games rise from 64 to 80 over 28 days

Construction work at the Zaha Hadid-designed Al-Wakrah Stadium on the outskirts of Doha. Karim Jaafar / AFP
Construction work at the Zaha Hadid-designed Al-Wakrah Stadium on the outskirts of Doha. Karim Jaafar / AFP

Qatar wants talks with Fifa to discuss the feasibility of increasing the 2022 World Cup to 48 teams despite preparations already dogged by problems over workers’ safety and human rights issues.

Football’s international government body has expressed interest in enlarging the tournament following calls on Thursday from South American football nations.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino has already secured approval for the number of teams to be increased from 32 to 48 teams from 2026, but said he would consider the calls to bring the move forward by four years.

Qatar's infrastructure is already stretched by the requirements of staging the Middle East's first World Cup and the changes would see the number of games rise from 64 to 80. It has only eight stadiums planned for the event and expanding the tournament might work only if the additional games are shared in the region.

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Preparations for the event are being disrupted by the ongoing dispute over terrorist links with other Gulf nations who severed diplomatic and travel links with Qatar in June 2017. Kuwait, which retains ties with Qatar, would be a possible option to take on the burden of additional World Cup matches.

Bringing another nation into the hosting, or requiring Qatar to build more stadiums, could increase the human rights scrutiny that has dogged it since winning the Fifa vote in 2010.

An inquest into the February 2017 death of a British construction worker heard that he was using “potentially lethal” equipment when he fell from a stadium site. The coroner said working practices at the site where Zac Cox died were “inherently unsafe”.

“Before any decision is taken it is important that discussions are held on the operations and logistics of an increase in size of the tournament in Qatar," the Qatar World Cup organising committee said in a statement to The Associated Press. “Regardless of the outcome, we are confident in our ability to deliver a successful World Cup in 2022.”

The tournament is already due to operate on a tight 28-day schedule to minimise the disruption caused to the European season after the tournament was moved to November-December because of the extreme summer heat.