By enriching national associations – financially and competitively - outside traditional strongholds Infantino inevitably stands a better chance of consolidating his own position of power. It is a move first deployed by Joao Havelange and perfected by Sepp Blatter. However, just because the expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams stands to benefit Infantino on a political level does not mean it is a bad idea.
FIFA has got some high-profile backers of the new initiative on board, including World Cup champion Diego Maradona and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. "I'm delighted by Gianni's initiative because it gives chances to teams that otherwise would start the qualifiers knowing they had no chance of getting to the World Cup," Maradona said this week. "It gives each country the dream and it renews the passion for football, it appears to me to be a fantastic idea."
The World Cup has been in a constant state of evolution and we should not fear the latest revamp. The 32-team World Cup format might well feel right for this generation and the 24-team format probably felt right for the generation before that. But there is a balance to be struck between legitimate, compelling competition and offering more countries the chance to get there. That’s what any true “World Cup” should be about.
As it currently stands – given that UEFA supplies 13 of the 32 teams while CAF gets 5 and the AFC gets 4.5 – the existence of an imbalance in the favour of European teams cannot be denied. By upping the African and Asian quotas this FIFA Council decision goes some way to redressing it.