It’s official; FIFA have announced that by 2026, the World Cup will see 48 countries face off for the planet’s greatest title, as opposed to the current 32. Some see it as over-kill, FIFA looking (as they nearly always do) to make more money from more matches and thus cheapening the quality on the international stage for their own profits. For some, it’s the source of joy: what could possibly be better than more football at the highest level?
We don’t really give a monkey’s actually, there’s pros and cons either way. Whilst 80 matches across 32 days does sound pretty intense, we can already envisage that glorious summer spent stuck to our sofas and glued to our screens. Plenty of tinnies and the boys over for the whole month, with a permanent excuse to hog the remote. What could possibly be better?
In fact, the decision hasn’t been made soon enough for some people. For the stars of 2018, 2026 will likely be the tournament that they’re looking a bit past it. For the 16 countries that will later be included, the decision would have been better made way back in 2008 or so. That way, we’d have the following gems gracing our screens at the highest international level next year. Cheapened quality? What are you on about? This Premier League 11 would definitely have something to say in response to that. Here’s our starting XI that are missing out on 2018’s World Cup thanks to FIFA’s bone-idleness.
NB: We’ve gone for the FIFA World Rankings as our guide for the top 16 teams that would, in theory, miss out on qualification if that’s how the tournament worked.
The Premier League's tallest player has reportedly made Peter Crouch cry due to his "loss of single talent" and would have lit up the World Cup as his head repeatedly hit the post.
The Manchester United centre-back isn't going to be setting the league on fire this year but he's only 22 so, who knows? Plenty of time for a World Cup or two...
The big Serb is admittedly a touch past it, nowadays. But with only one World Cup tournament to date, he must be kicking himself that he wasn't born ten years later. And not just for the Pokemon.
Manchester City's answer to a world-dominating villain lookalike has been imperious up and down the flanks for six seasons in sky blue now. Sadly, he's kicking on a bit - world domination lies in the form of a group stage humiliation.
Another big Serb for our line-up; Matic is the unmentioned glue that binds the Chelsea side together and is easily good enough for the international stage.
Tank. Big, stroppy Yaya is the sort of chap you wouldn't want to be in a mood with you. Sadly for Mr Guardiola, that's exactly what he got. Should be turning that anger into World Cup passion, Yaya.
African Player of the Year, Riyad Mahrez, is easily good enough for the world's largest stage. Thanks to the new rule, we could see the Foxes' talisman lighting it up for cups to come.
The tricky Dane and Tottenham hero completes this world-class midfield. Shame Yaya and Co. aren't his real international teammates. Having said that, The Lord himself leads up the Danish squad, so...
Nine goals from 19 Premier League games show Mane to be a top purchase for Liverpool. But with Senegal having only graced one World Cup, will he be relying on the new rule change for a jolly off and a kick about?
Tank no.2 and winner of the African Cup of Nations has proved that he can do it on a cold, rainy night In Stoke but could he do it on a mild, dry afternoon in Sri Lanka? We have undying faith, Wilfried.
If game-changing performances for the Lilywhites isn't reason enough to like this guy, his name certainly is. We love it, Son. Deserves a World Cup shot for that alone.
So, there they are. The unlucky chaps who’ll have to wait a year or nine to grace the World Cup. Poor fellas. Anyway, we can’t wait for the never-ending 2026 tournament and, keep an eye out; Son for the Golden Boot is our hot tip.