I may be in a minority, but I like the current format of the World Cup. Splitting the 32 clubs who qualified for the finals into 8 groups of 4 works well and there have been some surprises at the tournament with Belgium, Germany and Uruguay failing to qualify whereas Morocco, Japan and Australia unexpectedly gatecrashed the party.
Clearly FIFA disagrees with that and in pursuit of ever higher revenues, they have decided to expand the number of teams participating in the 2026 World Cup to 48. The much-maligned governing body is proposing that the 48 qualifiers will play in 16 groups of three with the top two from each group progressing to a round of 32. That would mean 16 additional games from the current format, but the 16 teams knocked out at the first stage will play just twice.
Added to this FIFA are understood to be considering having a result in every game of the group stages so there would be a penalty shoot-out in drawn games to decide the winner. This is being driven by the fact that the USA audience like to see an outright winner in all sport.
I really hope that FIFA reconsider their position and stick to the current formula. Unlike this year, the World Cup is generally played at the end of long hard domestic seasons and extending the number of matches and thereby the length of the tournament means the top players will get little rest time or holiday breaks which adds not only to the physical pressure on them but also the mental pressure.
Unlike in Qatar, there will be no new stadiums built for the 2026 World Cup and all the matches will be played in existing stadiums in Canada, Mexico and the USA with the final to be held in New York. 8 of the stadiums to be used currentlyhave artificial pitches and they will need to be dug up and replaced by traditional grass pitches.
Back to the present and it was great to see England qualify for the quarter-final stage on Sunday evening. Gareth Southgate has taken a lot of stick in the media, firstly over the selection of players like Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford, more latterly Jordan Henderson and then over the style of play, but he continues to rise above it and stick to his beliefs. England ran out easy winners against Senegal in the end and are as good as any team left in the competition. France has some great players, but so do England and the winner of this match could well be the tournament winners.
Let’s hope it’s coming home!