Football: 2022 World Cup stays with 32 teams, says Blatter

ZURICH (AFP) - The 2022 World Cup will remain a 32 team competition with no change to the share between the regional confederations, Fifa president Sepp Blatter said on Saturday after talks between football chiefs.

Europe and South America had feared an attempt to cut their places, but Mr Blatter said: "there is no change." The decision taken by Fifa's executive committee means that Europe will still have 13 places at the Qatar tournament and Africa five.

Asia and South America each get four places and a chance at a playoff. North and Central America get three places and a playoff chance while the Oceania winner enters a playoff.

Qatar will qualify automatically as the hosts.

Uefa chief Michel Platini had said ahead of the meeting that remaining at 13 places was a "red line" for the European confederation.

Prince Ali bin al Hussein, who challenged Blatter for the Fifa presidency, had proposed increasing the number of teams.

But Mr Blatter said on Friday that the World Cup should "not be touched." The Fifa executive also "confirmed" that the same continent cannot hold the World Cup twice in a row, which definitively ruled out a Chinese bid for 2026.

"In accordance with the Fifa Statutes ... member associations from the Asian Football Confederation would not be able to bid for 2026," said a Fifa statement.

China had expressed an interest in 2026 but its football leaders said the rule made a bid unlikely as Qatar will host the 2022 edition.

Mr Wang Jianlin, one of China's richest men, who has a stake in Atletico Madrid and also owns the Infront sports promotion agency met with Mr Blatter at the Fifa congress in Zurich this week.