The world football chief invoked the example of Wales and Iceland duing Euro 2016 to explain the virtues of adding more teams to the tournament
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has indicated future World Cups could feature 40 teams following the successful expansion of the European Championship.
Infantino claimed the performance of smaller nations at Euro 2016, increased for the first time this year to 24 teams, has strengthened the case for allowing an extra eight nations to qualify for the World Cup.
In an interview with Blick, Infantino discussed pressure from FIFA’s member nations to grow the quadrennial showpiece event, saying: “A World Cup is still today not only a football game, but something for the people.
“Look at the mood of the Icelanders, the Welsh, the Albanians or Hungarians. That’s great, this euphoria. What is happening in those countries, you have got to be proud of it.
“Switching the World Cup from 32 to 40 teams is high, but it still achieves the goal of FIFA – to develop football in the world. So advertising is still priceless.”
The 46-year-old, who was cleared earlier this month of breaching FIFA’s code of ethics, also claimed the Olympic football tournament requires a rethink.
The competition, in which teams can field only three players over the age of 23, does not enjoy the prestige of other international football events.
“This is indeed a problem and a sensitive issue that we must address together with the International Olympic Committee,” he said.
“The tournament is neither fish nor bird in this form and the men’s game, in which primarily under-23 players and a few extra are played, is not a good solution.
“In addition, the football calendar is too tight. You have to discuss this seriously again.
“By contrast, the women’s football developed superbly at the Olympics.”