sport

How radical FIFA change affects Socceroos

We will never see a World Cup like Qatar ever again.

That’s not hyperbole, it’s a fact – FIFA has already confirmed that the format of the World Cup will change for the 2026 tournament, which will be co-hosted by the USA, Mexico, and Canada.

Since 1998, 32 teams have participated in each tournament. From the next World Cup, that number will go to 48.

READ MORE: France shatters 64-year-old World Cup record

READ MORE: ‘Tough’ rock bottom that led Beale to rehab

READ MORE: David Warner warned over sandpaper reprisal

So, why change it then?

More games means more dollars, more teams qualifying means more tourists and TV views, and a longer tournament means more time in the media cycle.

Of course, you risk diluting the quality of the tournament, as well as the stakes of the early round games.

The trade off is that there’ll be an entire extra round of knockout fixtures, with that stage starting with a round of 32 instead of a round of 16.

What are the options?

As it stands, the World Cup will move from a 32-team tournament with eight groups of four, to a 48-team tournament with 16 groups of three.

FIFA has not locked in how the groups will work, and another proposal would see them revert back to groups of four.

The problem with that is that with 12 groups, that number doesn’t go evenly into a knockout phase, so you’d either have 16 or 32 teams advancing – which means the murky scenario of some groups having more teams qualify than others, which is never popular with fans.

What has FIFA committed to?

The only thing that’s set in stone is the number of teams – despite the brilliance we’ve just seen in Qatar, it will be the last time we get the World Cup in its current state.

Asia goes from five teams to eight guaranteed, Africa will get nine direct qualifiers instead of five, South America goes from four to six, Europe from 13 to 16, and North America from four to six (although three of those will be the co- hosts).

Sports reporter’s cause of death at World Cup revealed

And the biggest winners are surely New Zealand, with Oceania getting one guaranteed spot.

That’s 46 teams accounted for. After that, six additional teams – one from each continent except Europe, and a second one from North America – will compete for the final two spots in a play-off tournament.

Could there be a rethink?

Surely. The drama of the last day of group play had so much intrigue.

Australia and Tunisia scoring within a minute of each other, Spain needing to score against Japan to help Germany qualify, South Korea sneaking through by the barest of margins and Saudi Arabia scoring a goal that was meaningless to them, but meant a lot to Mexico – all of these were cracking storylines.

Obviously, if you have groups of three, you lose that.

The other issue is that the entire reason that simultaneous games were introduced in the first place was that in 1982, after Algeria had played their third and final game and beaten Chile, the only result that would have seen them not qualify was a narrow win for West Germany over Austria.

Those two teams met the day after Algeria’s match, with West Germany scoring early and then neither team opting to do any attacking for the remaining 80 or so minutes.

It was so controversial that it has its own Wikipedia page – and the match is known as the ‘Disgrace of Gijon’.

This is relevant because with an odd-numbered group format, this can happen again in the future. One team will have to play both of their games before the remaining two teams finish up, meaning that the latter two could hypothetically facilitate a result that benefits them both.

What does it mean for the Socceroos?

The expanded tournament is very much a catch 22 for Australia, and any other nation that finds itself around the cusp of qualification every time the tournament cycle repeats.

The obvious positive is that with an increased number of spots, it will be easier for Australia to qualify. Even in a bad qualification campaign, it’s unlikely that the Socceroos would struggle to be in the top eight Asian teams.

The drawback is that they are only guaranteed two games, rather than three. And with 32 teams qualifying to the next round it means that the accomplishment of reaching that stage is not as big a deal as it was in 2006 or this year, and it also means that an extra knockout game is needed if they were to win the tournament.

What do fans want?

Unsurprisingly, the initial announcement of tournament expansion was met with a mostly-negative reception, even from fans of countries that would struggle to qualify normally and now have an easier path.

But as we’ve seen from this week’s A-League fiasco, it’s rare to see fan concerns taken on board by the powers that be.

For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!

#radical #FIFA #change #affects #Socceroos

About the author

admin

Leave a Comment