Asia demands more places in 2026 World Cup

Fifa has raised the number of teams at the World Cup from 32 to 48 as of 2026.
Fifa has raised the number of teams at the World Cup from 32 to 48 as of 2026.PHOTO: AFP

NICOSIA (Cyprus) • Asia wants a significant increase in its allocation of places in the 48-nation 2026 World Cup, the head of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said yesterday.

Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa added that Asia was counting on a fair distribution of 2026 World Cup slots, demanding a rise from its four guaranteed places to reflect its economic power and the popularity of football across the continent.

"The Asian continent, given that it's the biggest continent in the world, deserves a significant increase in its current World Cup slots, given its big economic power, and the immense popularity of the sport in Asia, and also the increasing development in the different aspects of the game," he said.

World governing body Fifa's decision in January to expand the World Cup from 32 nations to 48 "allows many national teams to reach the world event for the first time, and will reflect on the development of the game worldwide," he added.

But he warned that the distribution of slots must be based on "clear and transparent foundations".

ASIA DESERVES EXTRA SLOTS

The Asian continent, given that it's the biggest continent in the world, deserves a significant increase in its current World Cup slots, given its big economic power, and the immense popularity of the sport in Asia, and also the increasing development in the different aspects of the game.

SHEIKH SALMAN EBRAHIM AL KHALIFA, Asian football chief, stating the case for his continent having a bigger role in an expanded World Cup.

"We have previously expressed our full support to the decision of raising the number of teams at the World Cup to 48 as of 2026, given the strategic importance of such a decision in developing different aspects of football," he said.

Sheikh Salman declined to put a figure on Asia's demands at the expanded World Cup although experts say it could be as high as eight.

Asia's football boss also expressed approval for massive Chinese spending on big-name transfers from Europe and South America.

He said the trend "sheds light on Asia, and highlights its growing presence on the international map, and helps in bringing big media and marketing benefits".

Chinese clubs have splashed out fortunes for top international talent including Brazilian midfielder Oscar who moved to Shanghai SIPG and Argentinian striker Carlos Tevez, who joined city rivals Shanghai Shenhua.

He warned, however, that the arrival of top players must not come at the expense of home-grown talent and hinder the development of the game in China.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2017, with the headline 'Asia demands more places in 2026 World Cup'. Print Edition | Subscribe