Baichung Bhutia on 48-team FIFA World Cup: It could be so boring
Germany won the 2014 FIFA World Cup after defeating Argentina 1-0 in extra-time in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Pic/Getty Images One of the world's biggest sporting festivals - the FIFA World Cup is set for a major facelift after a plan put forward by president Gianni Infantino was passed on Tuesday. The 2026 edition is due to expand from 32 teams to 48. However, according to former India skipper Baichung Bhutia, the expansion might affect the quality of football. Baichung Bhutia "The expansion is completely possible but the quality of football might come down. It's difficult to say now. There will be too many matches. The tournament will be longer and the quality too might fall. But for football in general, it's a great boost," Bhutia, who became India's youngest goalscorer at 19 in the 1995 Nehru Cup, told mid-day yesterday. The 2026 FIFA World Cup is set to feature 16 groups of three nations, with the top two sides advancing into the knockouts, increasing the number of games from 64 to 80. Given the increase in nations, does India stand a chance to qualify? Bhutia said: "It increases India's chance by one per cent only, 99 per cent we have to work hard. There are three teams from Asia that qualify for the World Cup. Now with the increase in the number of teams, there will be four from the continent. For us to reach the top four itself will be a huge challenge." India's current skipper Sunil Chhetri is keeping his fingers crossed to ensure the tournament doesn't turn into a one-sided affair. "It's happy news for India. As a neutral, 32 teams was perfect. Now with 48 teams, I hope the competition doesn't go down. You don't want to see a big margin in the scoreline. All games should be competitive," Chhetri added. Meanwhile, Bhutia feels the step will work wonders for the sport. "Obviously the sport will reach out. Sixteen countries have been increased. The players and fans too from those nations will become more passionate," Bhutia explained.