S. America will gain from plan

Infantino's proposed expansion to 40 teams for 2026 World Cup gives Conmebol 5 berths

MONTEVIDEO • The World Cup Finals could be expanded to include 40 teams in 2026, Fifa president Gianni Infantino said in Montevideo on Tuesday, adding that South America would be given five places.

Infantino, elected present of the world governing body last month, said: "We must open the Finals up to more teams. The idea would be from 2026. We're going to talk about this with everyone - players, the Fifa council. Not only do you give lots of teams the possibility of taking part, but also to many of dreaming of a place in the Finals."

The Finals have had 32 teams since 1998 and the champions, who used to automatically qualify as holders, have had to go into the qualifying phase from the 2006 tournament. Infantino said he did not plan to change this policy under the new plans.

South America has four automatic berths and one in an intercontinental play-off for the current 32-team set-up.

"My proposal for South America is five fixed places and maybe one more to play for on the pitch," Infantino explained. He did not say how the other six new places would be distributed or played for.

The hosts for the 2026 finals have yet to be voted on while the 2018 tournament will be held in Russia, with the 2022 Finals in Qatar.

Meanwhile, Infantino has reiterated that he joined Fifa to provide seriousness and transparency, warning that those who want to steal should "leave football".

When questioned by local media in Montevideo about the deteriorating image of Fifa, he said that "we have earned back trust through concrete actions, being honest and transparent".

"For that reason we are here," said the Fifa president.

"Even though we can't change the past, Fifa can work towards a different future," he added. "Those that want to steal need to leave football because, if not, we will get rid of them."

On top of that, Infantino has also said that he supported the idea of experimenting with technology to help in referee decisions, but it should be "done with care".

The Swiss said the International Football Association Board recently approved the presence of video assistant referees in certain circumstances, something that "we will carry out" experimentally "in the next two years".

"We have 13 countries that want to carry out these experiments," added the world football chief.

"It is very important that experiments are carried out in each country in a uniform way," he said.

Technology would only be used in match-changing situations such as validating goals, penalties and red cards, according to him.

"It is good that these experiments are happening," he said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2016, with the headline 'S. AMERICA WILL GAIN FROM PLAN'. Print Edition | Subscribe