FIFA president Gianni Infantino has hailed the 2018 World Cup as the best-ever edition of the national team tournament. The World Cup concludes at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Sunday with the final between Croatia and France. Reflecting on the tournament today, Infantino said it has acted to change perceptions of the host nation, Russia. “For a couple of years, I was saying it would be the best World Cup ever, today I can say that with more conviction,” he said.
“We had 98 per cent occupancy of the stadiums, one million fans from abroad to discover this country, more than three billion viewers on television and there will certainly be one billion for the final. Everyone has discovered a beautiful country, a welcoming country, full of people who are keen to show to the world that what maybe is sometimes said is not what happens here.”
The 2018 World Cup has been the first edition of the tournament to use the VAR system and it has generally been well received, despite pre-event fears. Infantino said VAR had reviewed 19 decisions in the 62 matches to date, correcting 16 refereeing decisions which were proved to be wrong.
“This is progress, this is better than the past,” he said. “VAR is not changing football, it is cleaning football. It is difficult to think of the World Cup without VAR, it has been certainly a more just competition…The goal scored from an offside position is finished in football, at least in football with VAR.”
However, Infantino was non-committal when questioned on the latest as to whether the 2022 World Cup will be expanded. Qatar last week said it remains open to the possibility of staging its World Cup under an expanded 48-team format despite Fifa having eased back on the proposal last month.
The World Cup is due to expand to 48 teams in 2026, when the national team tournament will be co-hosted by the US, Mexico and Canada. The prospect of an expanded tournament being introduced four years early in Qatar was first floated in April, when the matter was raised by the member associations of the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol).
Infantino had said he would consider bringing forward the expansion, but the FIFA Council last month unanimously agreed that the matter will first be discussed by Fifa with Qatar.
Infantino said today: “First we will discuss with the Qataris and then with the FIFA Council and stakeholders and decide calmly what the decision is. For the moment, we have a World Cup with 32 teams.”