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FIFA president Gianni Infantino hails best ever World Cup group stages: No more small teams

India Today 07-12-2022 India Today Web Desk
FIFA president Gianni Infantino hails best ever World Cup group stages: No more small teams © Provided by India Today FIFA president Gianni Infantino hails best ever World Cup group stages: No more small teams

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has lived up to its billing in terms of the sporting action. Multiple upsets shocked the world, with top teams falling against seemingly weaker opponents and former world champions getting knocked out in the group stages. The drama has prompted FIFA President Gianni Infantino to hail the group stage of the 2022 competition as the best ever in the history of the competition.

Former champions Argentina, Spain, Germany and Brazil all suffered shock group-stage losses and Africa, Asia and North America were represented in the last 16 along with traditional powerhouses South America and Europe.

Infantino said the matches were played in beautiful stadiums and already attracted a TV audience in excess of two billion viewers.

"Fantastic atmosphere, great goals, incredible excitement, surprises, small teams beating big teams," he said in comments released by FIFA on Wednesday.

"Well, there are no more small teams and no more big teams. The level is very, very equal," the president said.

"For the first time as well, national teams from all continents going to the knock-out phase, for the first time in history. This shows that football is really becoming truly global."

Infantino has pushed through the expansion of the World Cup from 32 teams to 48 for the next edition, which will be held across 16 cities in the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2026.

FIFA was heavily criticised in some quarters for awarding the hosting rights to Qatar because of allegations of corruption and human rights violations.

Infantino rounded on European critics of the host nation in his pre-tournament address, accusing them of hypocrisy and adding that engagement was the only way to improve human rights.

The quarter-final line-ups have been decided after Morocco handed Spain a shock defeat and Portugal went past Switzerland in a 6-1 victory. The next stage of the cokmpetition, the quarterfinals will start on 9 December, 8:30 PM IST with Croatia taking on Brazil.

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