VIENNA: UEFA has risked undermining the already-slim prospects of its candidates for the FIFA presidency by claiming an extra place at the World Cup finals in Russia in 2018 writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Promising more World Cup slots to non-European nations has featured in the manifestos of Prince Ali of Jordan, Dutch federation president Michael Van Praag and Luis Figo who are challenging incumbent Sepp Blatter.

However world federation FIFA has ruled that the limit of 32 finalists will be maintained in Russia and UEFA will be claiming at least 15 (including the host nation), an real increase of two compared with the finals in Brazil last year.

The allocation of World Cup slots is to be settled at a meeting of UEFA’s new executive committee the day after its annual congress in Zurich on May 30.

UEFA’s case was presented by general secretary Gianni Infantino after an executive committee meeting ahead of Tuesday’s Congress.

Infantino said: “I think there is a big chance that we will have more than 13 because, if you look at it objectively based on facts, 19 of the top 32 ranked associations are European.

Winning chance

“The winners of the last three World Cups were three European teams so I think it’s absolutely objective and fair to be asking for one more place only – in fact we could ask for more than one. To crown the world champions you must have the best teams in the competition.”

He added: “I cannot imagine a World Cup with fewer than 13 [Europeans nations] taking place. Whatever speculations and discussions the absolute minimum is the status quo.”

The executive committee has settled on a format, for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, of seven groups of six teams and two of five. This involves 52 of UEFA’s 54 members since Russia qualify automatically as hosts while Gibraltar is not a member of FIFA.

In other decisions, the executive committee agreed to devise a new financial distribution system for clubs in the Champions League and Europa League, with a view to increasing solidarity payments, as well as payments to clubs in the UEFA Europa League for 2015–18.

Details will be presented at the European Club Association’s general assembly in Stockholm on March 31.

The number of teams entering the 2016-17 Women’s Champions League will be increased.

The top 12 associations, rather than the current eight, can allowed to enter their domestic runners-up as well as the champions.

# # # #