A Look At A 48 Team World Cup

In January 2017 the FIFA Council approved a 48 team World Cup for the 2026 edition. Up from the current 32 teams.

A lot of time is left of course and the host(s) are not chosen yet, though a joint bid by USA, Mexico and Canada is the leading candidate. However increasing the number of countries is almost certain to lower the quality of matches. It is also very difficult to come up with a good format that is not as straightforward as 32 (and other numbers that are power of two)

FIFA has already agreed on the format and the plan is to have 16 groups of three teams with two team advancing. This already  makes the group stage meaningless and arguably unfair. A three group means three games per group, take for example,

Group

Team A

Team B

Team C

Matches

Team A vs Team B

Team B vs Team C

Team A vs Team C

How will a group like this be scheduled without team having more rest days than the other? Or that the last match can have both teams qualifying with a mutually beneficial result.

The allocation is another issue and as mentioned can cause a weakening and dilution of the tournament.

Asia will have 8 slots instead of the current 4.5

Africa 9 instead of 5

North, central America 6 instead 3.5

South America 6 instead of 4.5

Oceania 1 instead of 0.5

Europe 16 instead of 13

Plus 2 more slots in as yet undetermined playoffs, which can depend on the number of hosts as well.

An existing football infrastructure or hosts capable of  building it is another barrier that is at least not lessened by this kind of expansion. It remains to be seen if this effects the number of serious bids that are already few enough as it is. FIFA already requires at least one 80,000 capacity stadium and more with 60,000. The final decision on the hosts is expected in 2020.

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World Cup 2018: Stars Of The Group Stage

Mohamed Salah & Harry Kane are set to star at the World Cup

Eight groups and 32 teams. Not necessarily world wide stars but some players will shine in the group stage even though their team might not make it out of the group or perhaps fade after reaching the last 16. Below is a list of sixteen such players, two for each group.

Group A
The hosts, Russia, are not favorites to go far in the World Cup and that would be a failure for the country. Alan Dzagoev could be a star and needs to be for Russia to be a hit.
Egypt’s Mohamed Salah is on fire in the English Premier League and if does anywhere near as well in Russia he will be remembered and revered even more.

Group B
Cristiano Ronaldo led his team to the Euro 2016 championship, though he missed most of the final. His World Cup form has been mixed but he will be the star for Portugal.
Isco is Spain’s rising star and primed to leave a mark at the World Cup stage.

Group C
Antoine Griezmann will likely make a very big move after the World Cup. He can also lead France in the group stage and beyond.
Christian Eriksen can score spectacular goals and his goals can come in bunches as they did in the UEFA qualifying playoffs.

Group D
Lionel Messi left his national team mark when his hat trick rescued the Argentina team. Now he can and will do the same in Russia.
Luka Modric, late in his career, will pull the strings in midfield for Croatia.

Group E
Neymar is now the undisputed star of the Brazil national team. The selecao will live by his tricks and goals.
Keylor Navas in the Costa Rican goal will inspire and lead his team in the group stage.

Group F
Manuel Neuer is the leading figure of the German team. The goalie, sweeper will be one of the headliners of the group stage.
Javier Hernandez will score the goals to lead Mexico in the three group matches and beyond.

Group G
Kevin De Bruyne is at his peak for Manchester City. His pace and talent will create and finish for Belgium.
Harry Kane is the prolific goal scorer than can over English disappointments at the World Cup.

Group H
Robert Lewandowski will star and overcome his national team’s shortcomings to be one of the early stars in Russia.
Juan Cuadrado will create and cross from the midfield and wing for Radamel Falcao, Carlos Bacca et al to score the goals for Colombia.

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Top Two Forwards Of Each Team

The 2018 World Cup in Russia is just over five months away. Many bigger and not so bigger names have the chance to shine on the world stage, each of 32 teams’ forwards will try to make a bigger name for themselves and help their team advance to the knockout stages and play into July.

Below are two forwards from each qualified team with the best chance to become (bigger) heroes in their country and around the world.

Russia
Fyodor Smolov: 27 years old Krasnador forward with almost dozen goals to his name while playing for his national team. Regular scorer at club level and European club competitions.
Artem Dzyuba: Zenit player struggling with injuries. One of the stars of Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

Saudi Arabia
Mohammad Al-Sahlawi: Top scorer for club (Al-Nassr) and country with a more than one goal every two games goal scoring record over his career.
Nasser Al-Shamrani: A veteran on the team who featured for his national team as long ago as 2005.

Egypt
Mohamed Salah: One of the stars of the 2017-2018 European season leading the way for Liverpool after moving to England from Roma.
Ahmed Hassan Mahgoub: Not a regular for club (Braga) but still young at 24.

Uruguay
Luis Suarez: The infamous player still going strong for Barcelona and his national team.
Edinson Cavani: The owner of many missed chances is still a crucial part of the puzzle for the teams he plays for.

Portugal
Cristiano Ronaldo: Needs no introduction of course, heading towards the end of his career and it is his last chance to make as strong an impact at a World Cup.
Andre Silva: Young forward with a very good national team record (11 goals in 18 caps) and praised by many but struggling for minutes and goals in his first season in Italy.

Spain
Alvaro Morata: Almost super star level scoring regularly for Chelsea and his country.
Diego Costa: Hot headed but important player who fulfills certain characteristics, back in Spain after over three years in England.

Morocco
Khalid Boutaib: Regular scorer for club (Yeni Malatyaspor) and country. French born.
Youssef El-Arabi: Plays in the Qatar Stars League, also French born.

Iran
Sardar Azmoun: 22 goals in 30 caps. The hope of the national team.
Karim Ansarifard: Regular scorer in the Greece Superleague and the national team. A rising star in his mid 20s.

France
Antoine Griezmann: In demand forward likely to move from Atletico Madrid after the World Cup.
Kylian Mbappe: One of the most expensive players in the world, still only 19.

Australia
Tim Cahill: Still going strong at 38. His country is very reliant on him.
Mathew Leckie: One of the stars of his national team’s qualification for the World Cup.

Peru
Jefferson Farfan: Top scorer for country, one of the key reasons Peru are back at the World Cup.
Raul Ruidiaz: Good scorer in his native land and in the Mexican league.

Denmark
Nicklas Bendtner: Lord Bendtner is still a key player for the national team.
Kasper Dolberg: Rising star for Ajax and Denmark. In demand across Europe.

Argentina
Lionel Messi: Needs no introduction. Scored the goals that rescued Argentina from a near World Cup miss.
Sergio Aguero: Super star. Prolific scorer everywhere.

Iceland
Alfreo Finnbogason: One of the national team’s leading scorers.
Kolbeinn Sigthorsson: Scorer of a historic goal – the winning goal vs England – at Euro 2016.

Croatia
Mario Mandzukic: Key man for Juventus and country. Tall center forward.
Nikola Kalinic: Poor form at club a concern.

Nigeria
Ahmed Musa: Not always at his best but crucial for country.
Kelechi Iheanacho: Some important goals for Manchester City before moving to Leicester City last summer.

Brazil
Neymar: Record transfer holder and prolific scorer, now his own star at PSG.
Gabriel Jesus: A rising star at Manchester City.

Switzerland
Haris Seferovic: Not always consistent but his goals are needed for country.
Admir Mehmedi: The same as Seferovic. Can be inconsistent and miss chances.

Costa Rica
Marco Urena: MLS player who plays an important role up front.
Bryan Ruiz: Veteran captain who has starred in several European leagues.

Serbia
Aleksandar Mitrovic: One of the stars of World Cup 2018 qualification.
Aleksandar Prijovic: A good goal scorer at club level.

Germany
Thomas Muller: Can play anywhere in the front line. Typical strong German player.
Timo Werner: At 21 a rising star of the Bundesliga, Champions League and the national team.

Mexico
Javier Hernandez: Back in England after time in Spain and Germany. Divides opinion but a pure goal scorer.
Raul Jimenez: Experienced forward. Super sub at his club (Benfica).

Sweden
Marcus Berg: Veteran who plays an important role in the post Ibra era.
Alexander Isak: Youngest goalscorer for the Swedish national team.

South Korea
Son Heung-min: Doing well for Tottenham in England. A key player for the national team.
Ji Dong-won: Not the most prolific at Augsburg in Germany but important for his native country.

Belgium
Romelu Lukaku: His country’s big hope. Strong and experienced at only 24. Subject of a big move to Manchester United last summer.
Dries Mertens: Almost a late bloomer. A star in the Serie A for Napoli.

Panama
Blas Perez: 36 years old veteran still going strong for the first time qualifiers.
Gabriel Torres: Scorer of important goals to qualify for World Cup 2018.

Tunisia
Youssef Msakni: Qatar based top scorer.
Ahmed Akaichi: Saudi Arabia based forward whose goals will be needed in Russia.

England
Harry Kane: Outscored everyone – including Messi and Ronaldo – in the 2017 calendar year with 56 for club and country.
Jamie Vardy: His pace and work ethic will be needed in Russia.

Poland
Robert Lewandowski: One of the world’s best will carry his country forward.
Arkadiusz Milik: Injury has hampered his progress but is very capable.

Senegal
Sadio Mane: An offensive star for Liverpool and country.
Moussa Sow: UAE based veteran whose contribution is required.

Colombia
Carlos Bacca: Highly experienced goal scorer. Sometimes struggles in Europe.
Radamel Falcao: Back to his best at Monaco after years of injury and falling form.

Japan
Shinji Okazaki: Valuable experience in England has helped this veteran.
Takuma Asano: Once of Arsenal now based in Germany. He can and must step forward and add important goals.

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