BREAKING NEWS

FIFA has rubber-stamped plans to expand the World Cup to 48 teams, brushing aside concerns that enlargement could lower standards.

Football’s international governing body unanimously approved the changes at its headquarters in Zurich earlier on Tuesday.

The new format will see 16 groups of three teams, followed by a 32-team knock-out.

The changes mark the first expansion since 1998 and will come into affect in 2026.

Former French striker David Trezeguet said: ‘‘Having been a player myself, I think this could give some countries a lot of opportunities, especially the players who are not familiar with this beautiful competition. From that point of view I think it’s a great idea. Of course we still need to work out the detail but at the same time this could be something exceptional.’‘

But critics have labelled FIFA’s World Cup expansion as a power and money grab. It’s estimated that increasing the number of nations to 48 could rake in around an extra 600 million euros per tournament.

The number of matches in the new format will rise from 64 to 80, though the eventual winners of the competition will still only play seven games.