FIFA boss wonders if Qatar could cope with enlarged World Cup

Gianni Infantino made a visit to Doha in April to see how Qatar's preparations are coming along. (AFP)
Updated 05 June 2018
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FIFA boss wonders if Qatar could cope with enlarged World Cup

  • Infantino would like 48 teams at next World Cup
  • 'Obviously, Qatar will need to agree'

ZURICH: FIFA’s president indicated that the 2022 World Cup cannot be expanded to 48 teams without agreement from hosts Qatar, while backing further study of the “interesting” proposal.
Speaking just 10 days before the 2018 tournament kicks off in Russia, Gianni Infantino did not categorically say that Qatar has the right to veto an enlarged 2022 tournament if FIFA voters decide in favor of an expansion.
But he said that imposing a 48-team competition on Qatar — which is in the thick of preparations for a 32-nation tournament — would be “absolutely” unfair.
“Obviously, Qatar will need to agree and it will be the first to agree because we need to work together,” Infantino told reporters at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich.
Infantino’s support for a 48-team World Cup is not in doubt.
Expanding the tournament by 16 teams for 2026 was among his first signature achievements after taking charge of FIFA two years ago.
He credited South American confederation CONMEBOL with suggesting the enlargement be pushed up in four years.
“I find the CONMEBOL proposal interesting to study,” he said.
FIFA voters convening in Russia next week will decide strictly on whether 48 teams in 2022 merits closer analysis.
Infantino insisted it was premature to speculate on the likelihood of the idea moving forward.
“We have a contract with the Qataris. They have been awarded a World Cup with 32 teams and that is how it is,” the FIFA boss said. “Contracts are there to be respected.”
But, he also raised a prospect that some experts say poses the greatest threat to Doha’s World Cup aspirations: Shared hosting.
“Of course more teams means more stadiums, more venues, more hotels, more transportation,” Infantino said.
“Whether this is possible to be done only in Qatar of course is a question mark, so of course this should be looked into.”
The 2022 World Cup has been a source of controversy since the day the gas-rich Gulf state was awarded the tournament eight years ago.
Widespread corruption allegations during the bidding process remain under criminal investigation by Swiss prosecutors.
Reported human rights abuses of migrant workers building stadia have also dogged the preparations.
Adding to all that is the punishing economic embargo imposed on Qatar by its Gulf neighbors over Doha’s alleged support for terrorism.
Qatar has overcome those substantial obstacles and kept World Cup preparations on track.
But for Simon Chadwick, a sports and geopolitics expert at Britain’s Salford University, sharing the World Cup would mark “something of a defeat for Doha.”
Shared hosting for the 2026 edition may become a reality next week, with FIFA’s congress set to choose between a joint Canada-US-Mexico bid and a rival proposal from Morocco.
The North American bid has long been seen as the overwhelming favorite — and Infantino’s preferred choice — but it has faced increasingly stiff competition from Morocco in recent months.
On Friday, FIFA inspectors rated the African bid’s stadia, accommodation and transport as “high risk,” while giving the North American proposal solid marks.
The FIFA Task Force technically had the right to eliminate Morocco from competition but instead decided to let voters make the ultimate decision.
This has raised some concern that despite the weaker technical and financial credentials, Morocco could win out in what would be perceived as a direct rebuke of US President Donald Trump, who in April appeared to threaten nations that did not side with North America.
Infantino underscored his hope that FIFA voters would not let politics influence their decision.
“It should really be based on football,” he said.


Leonard scores 35, Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 for 3-2 lead

Updated 24 May 2019
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Leonard scores 35, Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 for 3-2 lead

  • Leonard hit the 30-point mark for the fourth time in the series

MILWAUKEE: Kawhi Leonard scored 35 points and the Toronto Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks 105-99 on Thursday night to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
Leonard showed no obvious signs of the leg soreness that bothered him in Toronto’s victories in the previous two games, hitting the 30-point mark for the fourth time in the series. He made five 3-pointers and had seven rebounds and nine assists.
Fred VanVleet scored 21 points, hitting seven 3s. Kyle Lowry added 17 as the Raptors put themselves in position to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time. A victory at home Saturday would set up a matchup with two-time defending champion Golden State.
“This was a super-hard win tonight,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.
The Raptors battled out of an early 14-point hole, then got 15 points from Leonard in the fourth quarter to send the top-seeded Bucks to their first three-game losing streak of the season.
“We weathered the storm early,” Leonard said.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points for Milwaukee hours after being announced as a unanimous first-team, All-NBA selection. Eric Bledsoe scored 20 and Malcolm Brogdon added 18 points and 11 rebounds in his return to the starting lineup.
“It’s first to four. We’ve got to go to Toronto, get a game. I think the group will be ready,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
The Raptors were clinging to a two-point lead in the closing minute after Khris Middleton drove around Leonard on the baseline for a layup.
Toronto was initially called for a shot-clock violation when Leonard missed a fadeaway jumper with 35 seconds left. That got overturned by a replay review, and Brook Lopez was called for a foul, instead, for bumping Marc Gasol after he retrieved the loose ball.
Gasol hit both free throws to make it 100-97. Another replay review went in Toronto’s favor when officials determined a ball went out of bounds off Brogdon with 26.8 seconds left. Brogdon pulled his hand away, thinking his dribble had gone off Pascal Siakam’s foot.
Siakam then drove for a dunk, making it 102-97, and the Raptors hung on from there.
Milwaukee was leading 81-79 with about 8 1/2 minutes left when Leonard nailed back-to-back 3-pointers. He hit two free throws before Siakam threw down a put-back dunk to make it 89-81.
The Bucks tied it at 93-all with 2:44 left on a 3-pointer by Lopez. VanVleet answered with one of his own before Antetokounmpo threw down an alley-oop dunk to cut it to 96-95 with just over two minutes remaining.
The Bucks set a fast pace early on and led by 10 after the first quarter, delighting the towel-waving fans chanting “Fear The Deer! Fear the Deer!” They withstood a 16-2 run by Toronto to start the second, with Antetokounmpo nailing a 3 to stop it.
The Bucks also went on a 14-2 run early in the third, with the Greek Freak throwing down a hard dunk off a feed by Middleton for a 63-51 lead. But the Raptors got right back into it.

Tip-ins

Raptors: Lowry now has 1,126 points in 66 playoff games for Toronto, surpassing DeMar DeRozan (1,117) as the franchise’s postseason scoring leader.
Bucks: Brogdon started all 64 games he played in during the regular season, before missing basically all of the first two rounds because of a heel injury. With Brogdon back in the lineup, Nikola Mirotic came off the bench.

Up next

Game 6 is at Toronto on Saturday.