December 8, 2016 / 2:49 PM / 10 months ago

Wenger sceptical over expanded World Cup

LONDON (Reuters) - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says he is not convinced by FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s proposal to expand the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams in time for 2026.

Soccer Football - FC Basel v Arsenal- UEFA Champions League Group Stage - Group A - Basel, Switzerland - 05/12/16 - Arsenal head coach Arsene Wenger attends a news conference. Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann

“Is that guided for popular reasons? Or is that guided to improve the level of football? I‘m a bit sceptical,” Wenger told reporters on Thursday.

“But if somebody can convince me that it will make football better and that we can live with the time it will take to complete the World Cup, I am ready to listen.”

Infantino said his proposal would involve 16 groups of three teams and would not mean the tournament lasting longer.

Wenger said he was more concerned with the qualification process, saying many of the matches are meaningless.

”The qualifying in Europe has to be changed already,“ said Wenger, whose side face Stoke City in the Premier League on Saturday. ”You look at the percentage of wins of the big countries in the qualifiers.

“They go to the big tournaments with 90 per cent wins and then the competition starts. The qualifiers are outdated and we have to rethink the process because of the number of games the players play that have really no meaning.”

When Infantino was elected in February he promised to expand the tournament from the current 32 teams to 40.

FIFA Council members will decide in January on the format and number of teams for the 2026 World Cup.

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Neil Robinson

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