Africa seeks 10 slots at expanded World Cup

Africa is seeking to double its places from five to 10 at an expanded World Cup from the 2026 finals.

The continent’s Football Association presidents have told football’s world governing body, FIFA, they want at least 10 spots in the 48-team World Cup.

“All associations back the idea to expand the World Cup and there is hope that Africa can have 10 places,” said South African FA chief Danny Jordaan.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that this would be double the five places Africa has at the 2018 and 2022 events.

Already, Europe is seeking a minimum of 16 places, up from 13, and wants its sides to be separated in the opening group stage.

The first phase will see 16 groups of three teams, with the top two advancing to a 32-team knockout phase under plans approved by FIFA last month.

Asia are expected to get eight to nine places, compared to 4.5 now, and South America, which has 10 member-countries, a total of six, also up from 4.5.

The CONCACAF region, made up of the Caribbean, Central and North American countries, would get 6.5 places, compared to 3.5.

Oceania, the small Pacific Islands confederation, would be having one automatic place at the finals, instead of 0.5.

Inter-continental playoffs between countries with half a place would determine the additional spots at the finals.

The final allocation of places must be passed by the FIFA Council.

The subject of the expanded World Cup featured prominently at a three-day summit between FIFA president Gianni Infantino and more than 50 presidents of the African FAs.

The talks were behind closed doors but FIFA officials said Infantino had outlined plans for an expanded World Cup and new development assistance for member-countries.

It is the first time a summit of this type has been held, giving Africa’s FA representatives’ informal contact with the FIFA leadership.

This included the world governing body’s recently appointed general secretary, Fatma Samoura.

“It has been a very good idea and a chance for the associations to also speak directly to the FIFA leadership about their issues and concerns,” said Ahmad, the president of the Madagascar Football Federation.

Ahmad, who uses just one name, is running for the presidency of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) against long-standing incumbent Issa Hayatou of Cameroon next month.

The summit comes three weeks before the CAF elections in Addis Ababa on March 16 and the FIFA event in Johannesburg has been dominated by intense lobbying, delegates said.

“Most of the business at this summit is actually outside of the conference room, in the corridors and the hotel lobby as different candidates try to persuade associations to vote for them,” said one African FA chief, who asked not to be named.