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48 Teams Will Play the FIFA World Cup Now; Does India Have a Shot?

FIFA is all set to expand the number of teams participating in the football World Cup from 32 to 48, starting with the 2026 edition, the game's governing body decided on Tuesday.

The decision making body, the FIFA Council, also decided that the format would consist of 16 groups of three teams in the group stage. More details are expected to follow after the meeting of the 37-member FIFA Council in Zurich on Tuesday.

In case you were wondering, India’s chances of qualifying are still very slim since the nation is world number 135 in FIFA’s current rankings.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who replaced the disgraced Sepp Blatter in February, had made World Cup expansion one of his promises during his successful electoral campaign.

Infantino had initially suggested a 40-team tournament but then added another eight to the total in October.

In making this decision, FIFA brushed aside concerns that the expansion would lower the overall standard of the tournament, and make it too long and unwieldy.

Critics, including the powerful European clubs as well as some leading coaches, have said that FIFA is tampering with a winning formula.

The last World Cup in Brazil was widely regarded as one of the best in the competition's 87-year-old history, featuring shock results, last minute drama and outstanding individual performances.

(With inputs from PTI)