World Cup 2026: Fifa Switches Back To Four-Team Group Format
Fifa has switched the format for the expanded 2026 World Cup back to four-team groups.
Fidel Info reports that The competition in the United States, Mexico and Canada was due to feature 16 groups of three because the number of teams is increasing from 32 to 48.
But the success of the four-team format at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar caused the governing body to reconsider.
The move expands the competition from its projected 80 matches to 104, including a new round-of-32 stage.
Fifa said the top two and eight best third-placed teams would progress to the last 32.
“The revised format mitigates the risk of collusion and ensures that all the teams play a minimum of three matches, while providing balanced rest time between competing teams,” said world football’s governing body.
The move was approved at Fifa’s council meeting in Rwanda.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino said in December that the governing body was considering a format change after the group stages in Qatar included some exciting final games.
The four-team group format, with the top two going through to the knockout stages, has been used since the men’s World Cup expanded to 32 teams in 1998.
The new round-of-32 stage means teams will have to play eight matches to win the tournament, compared to seven at the 2022 World Cup.
Fifa approved a men’s international match calendar from 2025-2030 and said that “based on the new calendar, the Fifa World Cup 2026 final will be played on Sunday, 19 July 2026”.
It added that the “mandatory” date for which clubs must release players for the tournament will start “on 25 May 2026, following the last official club match on 24 May 2026” and that “exemptions may apply to the final matches of confederation club competitions until 30 May 2026 subject to Fifa approval”.
The women’s international match calendar keeps its six international windows per year and includes the women’s Olympic football tournament, which will take place from 25 July to 10 August 2024.
A 32-team Club World Cup set for 2025
Fifa also approved the access list for the 32-team Fifa Club World Cup, which will take place every four years from June 2025.
Teams who win their confederation’s top tournament in “the four-year period of the seasons ending in 2021 and 2024” will qualify where they have enough places.
Europe has 12 places in the new tournament and Chelsea and Real Madrid, who won the Champions League in 2021 and 2022 respectively, have already secured their spots.
The other qualifying teams from each continent will be determined “by a club ranking based on the same four-year period”.
There will be a cap of two clubs per country with the exception being if more than two teams from the same country win their confederation’s premier tournament over the qualification period.
Fifa also wants to keep a yearly club competition and this will be “between the winner of the Uefa Champions League and the winner of intercontinental play-offs between the other confederations”.
What about the players?
Player organisations and club managers have regularly voiced concerns about the demands on players, and Fifa is to set up a task force to look at player welfare and “principles such as mandatory rest periods”.
“Our fundamental objective is to have clarity on this topic, and to have meaningful football matches while protecting the wellbeing of the players and recognising that many regions need more competitive football,” said Infantino.
However, the general secretary of players’ union Fifpro Jonas Baer-Hoffmann reiterated that “ongoing research provides new evidence of the excessive demands on elite players”.
“We are now observing a growing awareness among players about the harmful effects these pressures have on their performance, careers, and personal lives,” he added.
“They realise that their match calendar is not sustainable, affects their mental and physical health, and leaves them exposed, and without any protection, to an accelerated cycle of poorly coordinated competitions.”
Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) chief executive Maheta Molango said: “Fundamentally, the football calendar needs a complete reset.
“The expanded World Cup format being announced for 2026 means that, yet again, more games are being forced into an already overcrowded schedule.
“It is right that Fifa have listened to players’ concerns and announced a working group to address the critical issues surrounding fixture congestion and player welfare.”
“It is also encouraging to see that key concerns raised with Fifa by the PFA, such as the need for a minimum of 72 hours between games, a mandatory day off each week, and an annual rest period, are being prioritised.”
“When Gianni Infantino came to Manchester to meet with us last year, these were the changes that our Premier League and Women’s Super League members said they wanted to see.”
“However, it’s very difficult to see how that aligns with the constant expansion of the domestic and international calendar.”
“We know that the current workload players face is having an ongoing impact on their wellbeing, both on and off the pitch. We can’t simply push them until they break.”
Ghana: Hundreds Of People Pay Last Respects To Christian Atsu
Hundreds of people including Ghana’s president are paying their last respects to Christian Atsu, who died in last month’s earthquake in Turkey.
Fidel Info reports that His funeral is being held outside State House in Ghana’s capital, Accra.
“In life I love you darling, in death I’ll do the same,” read the tearful tribute from the footballer’s widow, Marie-Claire Rupio.
She was overcome with emotion and handed her speech to Atsu’s sister to read.
“You did not go alone, for part of me went with you,” it continued. “Your smile, your love I see in our children’s smiles.”
Representatives of Ghana’s national team and Atsu’s Turkish club Hatayspor were also at the ceremony.
Atsu’s body was recovered a fortnight after the quake from the rubble of his apartment building.
It was returned to Ghana almost a month ago. He will be buried later in his home village in south-eastern Ghana.
Atsu, 31, spent most of his career playing in the English Premier League for clubs including Chelsea, Newcastle and Everton.
WorldCup2030: Morocco Joins Hosting Bid With Spain And Portugal
Morocco say they have joined Spain and Portugal in a three-way bid to host the 2030 Fifa World Cup.
Fidel Info reports that Ukraine, who were invaded by Russia in February 2022, had initially joined Spain and Portugal’s bid in October.
It is not clear what will happen to Ukraine’s role after the announcement by Morocco at Tuesday’s Fifa Congress.
It has been reported there were concerns due to the ongoing war and governance issues at the Ukraine Football Association.
Morocco caused a surprise at the 2022 World Cup as they became the first African side to reach the semi-finals.
They lost to France in the last four before being beaten by Croatia in the third-place play-off.
“I would like to announce that the Kingdom of Morocco has decided, together with Spain and Portugal, to present a joint bid to host the 2030 World Cup,” Morocco’s King Mohammed VI said in a letter read by the country’s minister of sport Chakib Benmoussa in Kigali, where Fifa is hosting its 73rd congress.
“This joint bid, which is unprecedented in football history, will bring together Africa and Europe, the northern and southern Mediterranean, and the African, Arab and Euro-Mediterranean worlds.”
“It will also bring out the best in all of us – in effect a combination of genius, creativity, experience and means.”
Morocco missed out to South Africa in the race to host the 2010 World Cup.
Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay have also submitted a joint bid to host the 2030 World Cup.
Legendary Falcons Coach Mabo Dies Aged 78
Legendary Falcons Coach Ismaila Mabo is dead.
Fidel Info reports that He was aged 78.
He died at his residence in Jos, the capital of Plateau State, after a prolonged illness.
The legendary Mighty Jets of Jos captain and ex-international had in January said that he had been battling illness following the demise of his wife.
Funeral prayers for the late coach was held at 10am Monday.
The Falcons’ best-ever performance at the Women’s World Cup came in 1999, when Mabo led them to a quarterfinal finish. Mabo also served as the team’s side coach at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. He is regarded as the most successful Nigerian coach in women’s football.
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