Mourinho backs expanded 48-team World Cup finals
United boss believes new structure would help smaller nations and heighten excitement
Manchester United manager José Mourinho: “It’s important for critics to understand expansion doesn’t mean more matches.” Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images
José Mourinho has come out in favour of a 48-team World Cup finals as the prospect of that substantially expanded tournament heads closer to reality.
The Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, made a commitment to grow the number of competing nations by 50 per cent as part of his election platform, and Mourinho believes it will improve the competition.
The decision has proven controversial elsewhere however, with the German FA this week coming out against the proposals. The Football Association, meanwhile, is understood to accept the expansion as an inevitability before a vote on the plans by the Fifa council in Zurich on Tuesday.
“I’m totally in favour,” Mourinho said to Fifa’s website. “As a club manager, if the expansion meant more games, less holidays and less preseason for players, I would say no. But it’s important for critics to analyse and understand that expansion doesn’t mean more matches.”
One of the proposals for the restructuring of the World Cup would involve 16 groups of three teams, with only two matches per group before a knockout round of 32. The Manchester United manager believes this is the right structure for developing smaller nations and heightening excitement.
The expansion plan is expected to be approved at Tuesday’s meeting of the 37-member Fifa council, which includes Infantino and also David Gill, the former Manchester United chief executive now a Fifa vice-president. The English FA is understood to have been happy with the current 32-team tournament, but sees an expansion as a fait accompli. Instead of opposing the plans, it seems set to use any influence to try to negotiate the terms of the tournament. Specifics, for example the number of places allocated to European teams, will not be decided at Tuesday’s meeting.
The German FA has expressed opposition to an enlarged World Cup. Guardian Service