The world Cup for the whole world

With 2026 participants of the world Championship on football will be more, and the level — less uniform, but the magic, for sure, will continue. Presenting the group stage of a new kind, FIFA, however, have put themselves in an awkward position.

We must pay tribute to the new leadership of FIFA for fearlessness. In a time when large European and multinational clubs and the League more closely national football team, international football Association decided to make drastic changes in the known order of the finals of the world Cup. That 2026 will operate the new system was announced last week and it already managed to cause controversy.

The world Cup faced with the difficulties of growth, it for anybody not news. It all began with the modest of competition, 13 countries taking part in 18 matches in far 1930-m to year. Then elite football was mainly a privilege of Western Europe, a major Brazilian cities and the area around the mouth of the Rio de La Plata from Buenos Aires and Montevideo. But as soon as ROS the world of soccer, the world Cup also grew.

From 1954 to 1978 the number of participants stayed for 16 years, but the number of matches increased from year to year. As for the world Cup in Spain in 1982, it was finally time substantial expansion: 24 teams and 52 matches. This format remained until the championship in 1998, when in 64 matches for 33 warm French summer met 32 of the nation. It’s how we know the world Cup for almost two decades.

So it will be in Russia next year, and in Qatar in 2022. But at the world Cup in 2026, for which the owner will choose only three years later, will blow the winds of change. This time on competitions will arrive as many as 48 participants. And FIFA probably poorly explained the new structure of the competition, as European opinion leaders immediately sent his sharp criticism on the upcoming football matches between the Invisibles.

“Tahiti vs curaçao — there is no smell a match of the highest level, it sounds more like the windsurfer chooses where to go on vacation,” writes sports commentator of the Daily Mail Martin Samuel Martin (Martin Samuel). The influential European club Association and chief coach of the national team of Germany and world champion Joachim löw (Joachim Löw), too, was not slow to criticize.

However, for this reason. FIFA consists of 211 member countries and the organization wants to be in the world Cup was attended by 23%, in other words, slightly less than a quarter of all national teams, which during the year involved in the qualifying competition. For comparison, the qualification for the African Cup of Nations is the third part of African countries, in the European Cup reaches nearly half of European national teams. Held every four years the Asian Cup ticket receive more than half of all Asian Nations.

But the increase in the number always followed by an emotional discussion about the quality. How far can you go, do not lower the level of the tournament?

It is not necessary to be a politician to understand that an increase in the number of participants by 50% and the number of matches 25% will benefit the business FIFA. According to estimates of the international organization, the income from a five-week world Cup mega show reached a billion dollars, and the total net profit will increase by $ 640 million.

Money, most of which FIFA will return to the participating countries, will help the organization to earn such a desired location to itself and to assert its position as the most powerful sports Association in the world. The world Cup is already the largest source of income of the international football Federation. Meanwhile, many critics believe that the magic of the world Cup will soon disappear. It is European, mostly point of view.

During the world Cup in 1966, the Africans stayed home in protest against the wrong, in their opinion, the device of the qualifying competition. Then three of the best African national teams had to meet three of the best Asian national teams to fight for only one ticket to the championship. But the order remained the same, and each and every world Cup from 1962 to 1994, the Europeans accounted for more than half of the participants.

Now the debate is similar to those that we conducted in connection with the European Championship last summer. Traditionally a football nation — especially those who did not participate in the Cup (Holland and Denmark) — moaning and crying, while the newcomers Iceland, Northern Ireland, Slovakia, Albania and Wales have enjoyed a historic occasion. We, the Danes may want to think of EURO 2016 was a fiasco, but for the past 4 weeks in France was unforgettable. Magic cannot be measured objectively.

Not yet decided what continental unions will take advantage of these new 16th places at the world Cup, but it is obvious that Europe and South America will get quite a few additional places, while Africa, Asia and the Confederation of football of North and Central America CONCACAF will benefit the most.

Italian La Gazzetta dello Sport suggests that Africa will receive a minimum of nine (against the current five), while British newspaper the Guardian believes that will almost double the number of places from CONCACAF from 3.5 to 6.5. But the biggest challenge of the format 2026 may be something other than the increase and geographical expansion of the championship.

According to plan the FIFA world Cup final stage will be divided into 16 groups of three participants. The top two from each group go into the 1/16 finals, and then the competition will go into a widely known format of the game in the shootout. For the first time since 1950 group game of the world Cup to be held otherwise than within the framework of classical groups with four members that we know also under Champions League, Europa League and the European Cup.

In addition, for the first time since 1930, will be used by groups of three participants at the initial stage of the competition (with the exception of the only group in the world Cup in 1950). And not without reason. None of the matches groups of three participants could not be conducted simultaneously. There is an inherent risk that the result of the last match is a draw, or that the two teams agree to continue to go along with an acceptable result. And the same applies to the possible equality of points and goals.

All this is well known to FIFA, so the President Gianni Infantino (Gianni Infantino) proposed to abolish draws. After the draw, two opponents in the group will be hitting the series deciding penalty. To top it all — such a frivolous violation of half a century of football tradition (with the exception of the experiments in Japan and North America), which certainly will not soften the critics.

In addition, also expected a great deal of controversy about the broadcasts. Division 80 matches in 36 days, apparently, means that the first two weeks will be four matches a day. This raises a problem — how to create the feeling of a single competition. According to the Chilean company MatchVision living through the creation of structures for sporting events, lots of small groups and, among other things, always little time will mean that some countries will inevitably be overlooked.