Discussions over a 48-team World Cup in the Qatar 2022 tournament have been removed from the agenda of the 68th FIFA annual conference, the governing body’s president Gianni Infantino has announced.
Infantino had previously suggested he was optimistic about increasing the number of participating nations in the showpiece event by 16.
But the likelihood of such a scenario now appears to have been dealt a major blow, with the FIFA Congress – which is made up of 211 federations – having no input on the matter.
Instead, FIFA’s Council will now continue discussions with hosts Qatar, with the number of stadiums said to be a particular stumbling block.
Speaking after a FIFA Council meeting in Moscow on Sunday, Infantino said: “The dates have been fixed from the 20 something of November until December 18 with 32 teams in Qatar, and this is the decision and the decision stands and that is the end of the story.
“In this case it was ten associations raising a request and the South Americans rightly say; ‘If we have more teams participating in a World Cup, we will have more teams to have the quality to participate and who can win’.
“And Chile, who is the winner of the Copa America, are not in Russia and they raise this question, so it is normal.
“Now what we will do is the administration of FIFA will discuss this with the host on whether there is a possibility and what this possibility would look like.
“If there is no possibility then we know what we have and it will stand to what we have.”
Infantino then returned his attention to the 2018 World Cup, which begins in Russia on Thursday.
VAR is set to be used on the world stage for the first time and, while some domestic competitions have encountered problems with the technology, Infantino insists he is not nervous about it.
He said: “I am very excited about the World Cup to start with and I am not at all nervous about the VAR, because I know there are no negative effects.
“You know, the worst thing that can happen is that the wrong decision is not corrected, and then people will say that you had VAR but it didn’t correct the wrong decision.
“Fine, but the wrong decision was taken and without VAR it would remain wrong, with VAR at least we have a chance that the wrong decision is corrected.
“So, I don’t see negatives with the VAR and in those countries where VAR is being applied now, they can already not live without it and when we see the statistics, also which were published I think yesterday or the day before in Italy, they are incredible in terms of accuracy of decisions. I am very confident it will work well and it will help the referees.”