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.


Finch's century helps fire Australia to eight-wicket win over Pakistan

Updated 23 March 2019
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Finch's century helps fire Australia to eight-wicket win over Pakistan

SHARJAH: Aaron Finch's fine century drove Australia to a convincing eight-wicket win over a new-look Pakistan in the first one-day international on Friday.
The Austraian skipper scored 116 off 135 balls for his 12th one-day international century that helped his team overhaul the 281-run target in 49 overs on a flat Sharjah stadium pitch.
The win gives Australia the lead in the five-match series and has come on the back of their 3-2 series win in India earlier this month.
Finch's match-winning knock overshadowed Haris Sohail's maiden one-day hundred (101 not out) which helped Pakistan to 280-5 in their 50 overs.
The 32-year-old smashed Shoaib Malik for a huge six towards deep mid-wicket to complete his century -- his first since June last year against England at Chester-Le-Street -- off 120 balls.
Finch, who knocked four sixes and eight boundaries, added an innings-building 172 runs for the second wicket with Shaun Marsh who scored an unbeaten 91 off 102 balls with four boundaries and two sixes.
With 46 needed Finch became Mohammad Abbas's maiden wicket but Peter Handscomb hit 30 not out to help Marsh cross the line.
Finch and Marsh came together after opener Usman Khawaja fell for 24 to medium pacer Faheem Ashraf, the only other success Pakistan's new-look bowling attack could achieve.
Pakistan rested six of their key players including regular skipper Sarfraz Ahmed in order to keep them fresh for the World Cup starting in UK from May 30.
But the young and inexperienced Pakistan led by Malik proved no match for Australia, who are on a roll after their win in India earlier this month.
Left-hander Sohail, who reached 1,000 runs in his 27th one-day international when on 40, anchored Pakistan's innings, adding 98 for the third wicket with Umar Akmal who made a 50-ball 48 in his first international match for two years.
Sohail took a single to complete his hundred in the last over, finishing with six boundaries and a six.
Pakistan had handed one-day debuts to opener Shan Masood and Abbas -- who have played 15 and 14 Tests respectively.
Masood put on 35 in an opening stand with Imam-ul-Haq (17) before off-spinner Nathan Lyon dismissed Imam in the seventh over, caught and bowled.
Masood, who hit five boundaries in his 62-ball 40, was then bowled by paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile who finished with 1-38 in his 10 overs.
Umar smashed three sixes in one Jhye Richardson over but fell one short of his half century.
Malik fell for 11 and Ashraf and Imad Wasim scored 28 each.
Wasim hit four boundaries and a six during his 13-ball unbeaten knock, helping Pakistan to 55 runs in the last five overs.
Sunday's second ODI is also being played in Sharjah, with the third in Abu Dhabi (March 27) and the last two in Dubai (March 29 and 31).