Football World Cup: Arsène Wenger satisfied with the 48-team format but denounces the persistent injustice for Africa

European 1
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9:17 p.m., March 22, 2023

The 2026 World Cup will be revolutionary. Fifa has decided to bring together 48 teams, against 32 so far, divided into sixteen groups of three in the initial phase. A new format approved by former Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger despite some persistent “injustices”.

The 2026 Football World Cup, which will take place in the United States, Canada and Mexico, will change format compared to previous editions, including that in Qatar in December 2022 where Argentina won the crown in the final against the Blues. 48 teams will take part in the competition (against 32 so far) and will constitute twelve groups of four selections. A new format which gives more chances to small nations to qualify, as Arsène Wenger pointed out in Europe 1 Sport (every evening from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.): “I totally support”, reacted the former Gunners coach.

Since 1998, the format of the World Cup has provided for a group stage with eight groups of four teams, the first two winning their ticket for the round of 16. From now on, the first two of each group as well as “the eight best thirds” will reach the sixteenth finals, specifies the organization, extending the knockout phase by one stage. More teams and therefore more matches. The next World will include 104 meetings against 64 for the previous format. “Over the whole competition, that’s a lot of matches. But individually, there is only one more match per team”, defended Arsène Wenger, today at the head of the Development of the world football at Fifa.

Injustice for Africa

But for Arsène Wenger, despite this important modification of the rules, certain inequalities will persist. Especially on the African continent. While African countries had five qualifying tickets for the world (for 54 countries), Europe had 13 (for 55 countries). “It’s totally unfair”, got carried away Arsène Wenger at the microphone of Céline Géraud.

The new formula will nevertheless make it possible to have more African representatives. Indeed, nine African countries (or ten in the event of a playoff) will now be able to claim qualification for the World Cup. Europe will go from 13 to 16 tickets. A reduction in this inequality but which does not, however, completely eliminate it. if “it rebalances a little”, the Lorrain hopes that Fifa will continue in this perspective.

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