Qatar emir and CONMEBOL chief meet for World Cup 2022 talks

Doha: South American football’s most powerful administrator has met Qatar’s leader just weeks after countries including Argentina and Brazil called for the 2022 World Cup to be extended to 48 teams.

State media in Qatar on Friday said Alejandro Dominguez, president of CONMEBOL and also a FIFA vice-president, and Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani met in Doha.

“During the meeting they reviewed cooperation between Qatar and the South American Football Confederation and means of developing them,” reported the Qatar News Agency.

“They also reviewed Qatar’s preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the progress made in the related projects.”

Earlier this month, CONMEBOL formally asked FIFA to introduce the plan to expand team numbers in time for Qatar.

Football’s governing body had already agreed to enlarge the tournament from 32 teams — which is how many are currently scheduled to play in 2022 — starting from the next World Cup after Qatar, in 2026.

Dominguez made the request in a letter handed to Gianni Infantino.

The FIFA president has called the proposal a “very interesting idea”.

In it only formal response so far, Qatar told FIFA it was “important that discussions are held on the operations and logistics of an increase in size of the tournament in Qatar”.

Any increase in size is likely to prove problematic for Qatar.

The 2022 World Cup has already been shortened to 28 days to accommodate the switch to playing the tournament in November and December.

By contrast, the World Cup in Russia this year will be played over 32 days.

Qatar, which says it is spending $500 million a week on the first World Cup to be staged in the Middle East, is currently planning to use eight venues in 2022, four fewer than Russia.

One solution to an expanded tournament may be for Qatar to sanction holding some matches elsewhere in the Gulf.

However, that is complicated by the fact Qatar is at the centre of a fractious ongoing regional political dispute.

For the past 10 months, Qatar has been isolated by a group of former allied neighbouring countries led by Saudi Arabia which accuse Doha of supporting terrorism.

Qatar rejects the charges and claims it neighbours want regime change.

Also this month Qatar’s football association agreed to accept an invitation for its national team to play at next year’s Copa America.

Agence France-Presse