FIFA president Gianni Infantino says Qatar World Cup could still be expanded to 48 teams
Last Updated: 02/01/19 10:34am
Gianni Infantino has revealed FIFA are still considering a plan to expand the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to 48 teams.
Speaking at the Dubai International Sports Conference, the FIFA president confirmed they were looking into whether it would be possible for some of Qatar's Gulf neighbours to host some matches.
"The World Cup will take place in Qatar with 32 teams. Obviously, if we can increase it to 48 teams and make the world happy we should try it," he said.
Infantino revealed in November that FIFA were keen to further expand the tournament from its current 32-team format - although he acknowledged at the time there was little prospect of success.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt launched a diplomatic and trade boycott of Qatar in June 2017 that has complicated the prospect of sharing the tournament.
The countries accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism, which it denies.
FIFA voted in 2017 to increase the size of the tournament from 32 to 48 teams starting from 2026 but, since then, Infantino has been considering bringing the change forward to 2022.
"If you think it's a good thing to have 48 teams in the World Cup, why not try four years before, that's why we are analysing whether it's possible to have 48 teams already in 2022," Infantino added.
"If we can accommodate some of the neighbouring countries in the gulf region which are very close by to host a few games in the World Cup this could be very beneficial for the region and the entire world.
"There are tensions in this particular region and it's up to their respective leaders to deal with that but maybe it's easier to talk about a joint football project than more complicated things.
"If it can help all the people in the Gulf and all the countries in the world develop football and bring a positive message to the world about football, then you should give it a try."
Qatar was controversially awarded the World Cup in 2010 as, due to its hot climate, the tournament will be held in November and December - during the European domestic football season.
The success of the Qatari bid also prompted allegations of corruption - although a FIFA internal investigation cleared Qatar of any wrongdoing,