Europe 1 20:20 p.m., March 22, 2023, modified at 20:22 p.m., March 22, 2023

The 2026 World Cup will be revolutionary. FIFA has decided to bring together 48 teams, compared to 32 so far, divided into sixteen groups of three in the initial phase. A new format approved by former Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger despite some persistent "injustices".

The 2026 Football World Cup, which will take place in the United States, Canada and Mexico, will change format compared to previous editions including the one in Qatar in December 2022 where Argentina won the final against Les Bleus. 48 teams will take part in the competition (compared to 32 so far) and will form twelve groups of four selections. A new format that leaves more chances for small nations to qualify, as Arsène Wenger stressed in Europe 1 Sport (every night from 20 pm to 23 pm): "I totally support," reacted the former coach of the Gunners.

Since 1998, the format of the World Cup has provided for a group stage with eight groups of four teams, the first two winning their ticket to the knockout stages. From now on, the first two of each group as well as "the eight best thirds" will reach the sixteenth finals, says the organization, extending the knockout phase by one stage. More teams and therefore more matches. The next World Cup will include 104 matches against 64 for the previous format. "Over the whole competition, it's a lot of matches. But individually, there is only one more match per team," defended Arsène Wenger, now head of World Football Development at FIFA.

Injustice for Africa

But for Arsène Wenger, despite this important change in the rules, some inequalities will persist. Especially concerning the African continent. While African countries had five qualifying tickets for the World Cup (for 54 countries), Europe had 13 (for 55 countries). "It's totally unfair," Arsène Wenger told Celine Geraud.


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The new formula will, however, allow for more African representatives. Indeed, nine African countries (or ten in case of playoff will now be able to claim a qualification for the World Cup. Europe will go from 13 to 16 tickets. A reduction of this inequality but which does not however eliminate it completely. Even if "it rebalances a little", the Lorrain hopes that Fifa will continue in this perspective.