FIFA to decide on World Cup reform in January


Zurich—FIFA executives will make a final decision on World Cup reform in January after weighing up three proposals on Thursday, as president Gianni Infantino pushes plans to grow the lucrative tournament.
Infantino said it was possible that FIFA will leave the competition as a 32-team event, but he has made no secret of his desire to see the World Cup involve more countries, and more revenue, from 2026 and beyond.
One option studied by the powerful FIFA Council at Thursday’s meeting was a 40-team World Cup, with eight groups of five teams, or 10 groups of four.
A 48-team proposal, favoured by Infantino, would see the 16 group winners of a qualifying round automatically book a place in the tournament, while an additional 32 teams would compete in a new pre-tournament play-off.
From the play-off, 16 nations would then move on to the World Cup itself.
“We’ll keep an open mind and an open spirit and maybe we don’t change anything and maybe we change everything,” Infantino said after the first of the two-day council meeting.
“The decision will be taken at the next council meeting in January,” he said.
Calls to expand the showcase tournament, a vital source of FIFA revenue, have been criticised over fears it would dilute the quality of World Cup competition and add new fixtures to football’s already packed calendar. Meanwhile, Controversial Paris Saint-Germain full-back Serge Aurier is under investigation by FIFA after making a throat slitting gesture duing a World Cup qualifier last weekend.
Ivory Coast international Aurier celebrated a goal against Mali by turning to the crowd and dragging his finger across his throat.
“A preliminary investigation is underway,” football’s world governing body told AFP on Thursday.
The tough 23-year-old made the hand gesture after his cross was inadvertently turned into his own net by Mali’s Salif Coulibaly to give the Ivory Coast a 2-1 lead in Bouake before they went on to win the match 3-1.
Although he came under fire in some quarters on social media, Aurier was the subject of some rare positive attention on Wednesday.
Mali coach Alain Giresse praised the player Wednesday in a French radio interview, claiming Aurier’s quick-thinking had helped save Malian Moussa Doumbia’s life as the unconscious player was in danger of swallowing his tongue.
“Serge Aurier, along with one of our players, had the presence of mind to quickly put him (Doumbia) on his side and to use his hand to pull his tongue out as he was dying,” Giresse told RMC.—AFP