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Russian football official lauds FIFA’s decision on 32-team format for 2022 World Cup

The initiative to enlarge the participating format was voiced by FIFA President Gianni Infantino in 2016

MOSCOW, May 23. /TASS/. An initiative to increase the number of the world football championship from 32 to 48 is senseless as no country would be able to host the global tournament of such scale, former FIFA vice president Vyacheslav Koloskov told TASS on Thursday.

The world’s governing football body, FIFA, announced on Wednesday night its decision to maintain the format of 32 participating national teams for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar instead of raising it to 48 teams.

"The idea of 48 teams format is principally senseless as it would be detrimental to the audience appeal, interest and competitiveness," Koloskov, who is also the president emeritus of the Russian Football Union (RFU), said in an interview with TASS.

"I am not speaking here that not a single country will be able of organizing alone a tournament with such number of participating teams," he continued. "Speaking about Qatar, I have no clue whose ludicrous idea it was putting a host country in such extreme conditions with only three and a half years before the World Cup. This is why I believe that this decision [of FIFA] was absolutely correct and there should have been no other decisions on this issue."

Asked by a TASS correspondent whether FIFA was trying to earn more money by increasing the number of participating nations in the World Cup tournaments, Koloskov said this is a football tournament and not a festival.

"The integral sports part of the World Cups would only deteriorate [under such conditions] and this is all I can say about it," Koloskov stated. "This is my personal opinion and perhaps someone has a different opinion or someone wants to make money."

"I will always remember the words of former president of the European Union of Football Associations [UEFA] Michel Platini, who said that the game of football always comes first and is followed only in the second place by money and everything else," Koloskov added.

2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

Qatar is set to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup between November 21 and December 18 at seven venues across the country, namely in Doha, Lusail, Al-Wakrah, Al-Khor, Al-Rayyan, Umm Salal and Madinat ash Shamal.

Qatar won the right to host the matches of the 2022 FIFA World Cup on December 2, 2010.

In March 2015, FIFA officially announced that the 22nd edition of FIFA’s flagship event would be played in November and December 2022, with the final match set for December 18, 2022 - Qatar National Day - and with the objective, in principle, of holding the tournament for 28 days.

FIFA announced in its statement on Wednesday: "In line with the conclusions of the feasibility study approved by the FIFA Council at its last meeting, FIFA and Qatar have jointly explored all possibilities to increase the number of participant teams from 32 to 48 teams by involving neighboring countries at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022."

"Following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process with the involvement of all the relevant stakeholders, it was concluded that under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made now," the statement from FIFA added.

Initiative on FIFA World Cups new format

The initiative to enlarge the participating format was voiced by FIFA President Gianni Infantino in 2016 during his election campaign for the post of the organization’s president, but he initially proposed the number of 40 national teams.

The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be the first in history to see an enlarged format of 48 participating teams and will be held in 23 cities - Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey in Mexico; Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal in Canada. The United States offered the following cities: New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, Boston, Cincinnati, Nashville, Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, Houston, the Dallas/Ft. Worth metropolitan area, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Kansas City and Seattle.

A decision to increase the number of national teams participating in the World Cup from the current number of 32 to a total of 48 was unanimously approved by the FIFA Council at its Zurich session in January 2017.

The new arrangement comes into force staring with the 2026 world football championship and stipulates a total of 16 groups with three national teams in each competing for the World Cup trophy.