Bafana Bafana

Bafana's chances increase with new SWC format

2017-01-11 10:00
Thulani Serero (Gallo)

Cape Town - Bafana Bafana's Soccer World Cup qualification chances will increase following confirmation of the new FIFA format to be introduced in 2026.

The South African Football Association (SAFA) hierarchy will be smiling from ear-to-ear after FIFA's ruling council unanimously voted to expand the competition from 32 to 48 teams.

The tournament's last restructure took place in 1998 when FIFA changed the format from 24 to 32 teams for the spectacle that was held in France. 

Since Gianni Infantino was voted in as the governing body's president last year, the former Deputy General Secretary of UEFA hoped that the game's showpiece would expand.

Tuesday's vote assured that a further 16 nations will get a shot at lifting the coveted golden trophy in nine years time.

FIFA also confirmed that further details will be released in May 2017 as to which continents will be allocated more places at the 2026 tournament, the hosts of which are rumoured to be the USA.

However, it has been unofficially reported that Europe could get 16 places (up from 13), with Africa earning nine (currently 5) under the new format.

If the suggestions are true, it will put South Africa in a better position for qualification.

Overall, the expansion is good for Africa as the continent boasts several footballing nations (54 as per the FIFA rankings) hungry for international coverage.

The 2026 format will see 16 groups each with three teams in each. The top two teams will advance to a knock-out round, with the bottom-placed team heading home.

With nine places on the cards for Africa, the qualification structure looks set to be revamped as well.

The current qualification format for Africa is a three-round process, with the first round consisting of 26 lower ranked teams battling it out in home and away matches.

Those 13 first round winners join the top 27-ranked African countries in Round 2 to give 40 nations battling in 20 match-ups over two legs, with the winners advancing to the third round draw.

The third round is a group stage format, with those 20 nations who emerged victorious in the round two process, split into five groups of four - with the winners of each group qualifying for the World Cup.

The above system is likely to change with a suggestion that an added round will be introduced.

FIFA have much work to do in order to see the new format work, but they have a massive financial incentive to do so, as revenue is expected to be boosted by $640 million.

In the meantime, let's see if Bafana Bafana can qualify for the next two World Cups which will be hosted in Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022.

Hopefully by then, SAFA president Danny Jordaan's proposed '2022 Vision' will have benefited South Africa as they set their sights on 2026.

Read more on:    bafana bafana  |  fifa  |  soccer
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