SCRAMBLE FOR CUP SLOTS BEGINS: Asia boss first to call for more World Cup places

This file photo taken on May 12, 2006 shows the FIFA World Cup trophy presented to the public in Berlin. FIFA's ruling council on January 10, 2017 unanimously approved an expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams in 2026, with a format of 16 groups of three nations. / AFP PHOTO /

Asia’s football chief said the region “deserves more slots” at the World Cup, as Fifa’s decision to expand the tournament to 48 teams from 2026 was cheered in countries from China to New Zealand.

Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said Asia’s size and economic might merited more than its current allocation of four guaranteed spots, which is expected to rise to eight.

Chinese state media said the move could help realise the country’s “dream” of returning to the World Cup, while New Zealand, which looks set to be a key beneficiary, called the move “fantastic news”.

Many critics have rounded on the decision, complaining it will dilute the quality of the World Cup and saying it was driven by hunger for profits and political gain.

But Sheikh Salman, president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), said it would have a “positive impact on Asian football”.

“We believe that Asia, as the biggest continent, deserves more slots compared with the current quota, looking at the economic power it has, and the popularity for the game in Asia, in addition to the huge development for football at all levels,” he said in a statement.

Sheikh Salman is a vice-president of the Fifa Council, which on Tuesday approved the move to increase the number of World Cup competitors from 32 to 48 teams, the biggest rise in its history.

The expansion was a key election promise of Fifa president Gianni Infantino, who beat Sheikh Salman to the post in polls early last year.

A confidential Fifa report seen by AFP forecasts a 48-team tournament would bring a cash boost of $640 million (Sh64 billion) above projected revenues for next year’s edition in Russia. Asian countries have largely failed to make an impact at the World Cup, which is dominated by European and South American teams, although co-hosts South Korea reached the semi-finals in 2002.

In China, who are 82nd in the Fifa rankings but have set their sights on becoming a global football power, the official Xinhua news agency said Fifa’s move represented a big opportunity.

“Even if the levels of skill and strategy in the Chinese men’s football do not grow in leaps and bounds by 2026, the initial objectives of (China’s) football reform will have been realised,” a Xinhua commentary said.

“By then, with the added bonus of World Cup expansion, it is highly possible that China’s return to the World Cup will no longer be just a dream.”

Next Story
LATEST STORIES
Cameroon 0 - 0 Gabon: Burkina Faso, Cameroon into Cup of Nations quarters, Gabon crashed out

African Cup of Nations hosts Gabon failed to qualify from the group stages after drawing 0-0 with Cameroon.

Guinea Bissau 0 – 2 Burkina Faso: Burkina Faso top table and dodge Senegal

Burkina Faso struck early in each half to defeat Guinea-Bissau 2-0 Sunday, win Group A of the Africa Cup of Nations and dodge title favourites Senegal in the quarter-finals.

TRIMMING BEGINS: SportsPesa AllStars team takes shape as 12 released ahead of Hull City trip

Twelve players have been axed from the SportPesa AllStars training camp.

Boon for local gamblers as another betting company set to join fray

Philipines-based Dafabet said to have already set things in motion to set up local operations in coming months

Returning Costa gives Chelsea breathing space following their 2-0 win over Hull City

Diego Costa marked his comeback with a goal as Chelsea overcame an obdurate Hull City side 2-0 on Sunday to surge eight points clear at the Premier League summit.

Ice-cool Sanchez lifts 10-man Arsenal to dramatic win over Burnley

Alexis Sanchez kept his nerve to haul 10-man Arsenal into second place in the Premier League as the Chilean's last-gasp penalty sealed a dramatic 2-1 home win over Burnley on Sunday.

More Stories
Cameroon 0 - 0 Gabon: Burkina Faso, Cameroon into Cup of Nations quarters, Gabon crashed out

African Cup of Nations hosts Gabon failed to qualify from the group stages after drawing 0-0 with Cameroon.

Guinea Bissau 0 – 2 Burkina Faso: Burkina Faso top table and dodge Senegal

Burkina Faso struck early in each half to defeat Guinea-Bissau 2-0 Sunday, win Group A of the Africa Cup of Nations and dodge title favourites Senegal in the quarter-finals.

TRIMMING BEGINS: SportsPesa AllStars team takes shape as 12 released ahead of Hull City trip

Twelve players have been axed from the SportPesa AllStars training camp.

Boon for local gamblers as another betting company set to join fray

Philipines-based Dafabet said to have already set things in motion to set up local operations in coming months

Returning Costa gives Chelsea breathing space following their 2-0 win over Hull City

Diego Costa marked his comeback with a goal as Chelsea overcame an obdurate Hull City side 2-0 on Sunday to surge eight points clear at the Premier League summit.

Ice-cool Sanchez lifts 10-man Arsenal to dramatic win over Burnley

Alexis Sanchez kept his nerve to haul 10-man Arsenal into second place in the Premier League as the Chilean's last-gasp penalty sealed a dramatic 2-1 home win over Burnley on Sunday.

Victor Wanyama bemoans 'two points dropped' after their 2-2 draw with Manchester City

Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Victor Wanyama has taken to Twitter to express his frustration after a dramatic 2-2 draw with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

Southampton beat Champions Leicester City 3-0

Southampton put the row over former captain Jose Fonte's departure to one side as they beat struggling champions Leicester 3-0 in the Premier League at St Mary's on Sunday.

Wayne Rooney linked to Chinese Super League move after breaking Manchester United scoring record

Mega-moneyed Chinese soccer bosses want to make a record-breaking signing of Manchester United playmaker Wayne Rooney with an offer of a staggering £1 Million a week making him the best paid footballer in the world.

Egypt 1 - 0 Uganda: Egypt strike late to dump out Uganda

Abdallah El Said scored with a minute left as Egypt snatched a Uganda Cranes becomes the first team to exit the #AFCON2017 following the lose against Egypt.