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NZ Football welcomes expanded World Cup

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 10/01/2017
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An expanded World Cup could have huge benefits for soccer in New Zealand, NZ Football chief executive Andy Martin believes.

The sport's governing body, Fifa, has announced its decision to increase the number of teams in the World Cup from 32 to 48 from 2026.

Details on how the 16 additional places will be allocated have yet to be finalised, but Martin says it appears Oceania will receive at least one.

"We don't know the detail, and that'll come out over the next three or four months," Martin said on Wednesday.

"We're led to believe this will mean at least one place and if that's the case, that'll be fantastic for Oceania."

Since 1998, the World Cup format has comprised eight groups of four teams, with the top two sides progressing to the knockout stages.

Under the revamp, teams will be divided into 16 groups of three, with the top two from each qualifying for a round of 32 as the competition reverts to a knockout format.

"The key thing is, anything that takes away the sudden-death play-off scenario that we're faced with today in Oceania to get to the World Cup is good news," Martin said.

"This gives us a fighting chance."

At the moment, the Oceania confederation winner plays off for a World Cup spot against the fifth-placed qualifier from the South American Football Confederation.

In the All Whites' bid for the 2014 World Cup, that was Mexico and the New Zealanders lost 9-3 on aggregate in the home and away series.

New Zealand's successful 2010 campaign, where the All Whites went unbeaten in pool play in South Africa, had provided a huge financial boost, Martin said.

"The prizemoney that came from that has funded the game subsequently.

"We've seen high numbers coming through the game ... what we did in 2010 has inspired future generations."

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