Amaju Pinnick, the Nigerian Football Federation president, said it would be big surprise if Fifa did not adopt Gianni Infantinos proposals to expand the World Cup from 2026
The president of the Nigerian Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick, has said it would be a big surprise if Gianni Infantinos proposals to expand the World Cup to 48 teams from 2026 are not enthusiastically adopted when the Fifa Council meets in Zurich on Tuesday.
Pinnick is in Switzerland and, while he is not one of the 37 members of the council, he said he has yet to meet anyone who does not support the Fifa presidents plan.
So far everybodys excited about it, he said. I wouldnt say theres 100% support but all my colleagues Ive spoken to all my colleagues are excited about it. Im not going to say 100% because I havent spoken to everybody, but certainly most of Africa is excited about it.
The council will vote on five potential formats for the 2026 competition. Infantinos plan would involve 48 nations playing in 16 groups of three teams, with the top two progressing to a 32-team knockout stage.
But there are also two options under which the competition would expand to 40 teams, one in which 32 teams would play a one-off knockout round for the right to join 16 pre-qualified teams in the main tournament, and the possibility of retaining the present 32-team format.
Under Infantinos proposal the total number of World Cup games would rise from 64 to 80 but the maximum number of matches any one team could play would remain at seven. There wont be too much football. Why worry about it? Were just excited about it, Pinnick said. You should understand, the president of Fifa, whatever he does, he does a lot of consultation and research.
And of course he knows its not going to be boring. Its going to be very good. Theres going to be more teams and more football. The more the merrier, and I believe he will get it right. If it isnt agreed it would be a big surprise because most nations are supporting it.
Last week Reinhard Grindel, president of the German FA, said the new format contained considerable weaknesses and his organisation was fundamentally convinced that the tried-and-tested model of 32 participating nations should be held. But no other nation has so far publicly opposed the idea.
The English FA is understood to be resigned to the competitions expansion and its representative on the Fifa council, David Gill, will miss the vote because of prior commitments in Australia.
Fifas internal research has suggested the expanded format will increase revenues by $1bn (about 800m), raising total profits from the event to nearly 3.5bn. It is not yet known how the 16 additional places would be distributed, though the African and Asian confederations would expect their current allocation of four places each to be significantly increased.
We are 100% in support of it, Pinnick said. It will give more countries an opportunity, so I think its good. It will help teams from Africa, and other developingnations.
Nigeria have not qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations, about to start in Gabon, but are top of their qualifying group for the 32-team 2018 World Cup with two wins from two games.