Brazil legends Cafu, Roberto Carlos say 48 teams will hurt quality of World Cup

ZURICH -- Former Brazil World Cup winners Cafu and Roberto Carlos have expressed concerns that the quality of the tournament could be affected if, as expected, the number of teams participating is increased to 48 by FIFA.

The 36-member FIFA Council is set to vote on Tuesday on plans to expand the World Cup, amid increasing reports that world football's governing body will introduce a 48-team format for the 2026 edition.

Cafu, who captained Brazil to World Cup victory in 2002 and also won the tournament in 1994 said: "I welcome the fact that more countries could be given the chance to participate in this fantastic tournament but my concern is that it could affect the level of football.

"It could lead to one-sided games and teams being easily beaten and this could actually demoralise many nations and not help with their football development.

"We have informed FIFA that it has to get the balance right. More teams in the World Cup cannot lead to a drop in the quality of matches."

Roberto Carlos, who won the World Cup in 2002, added: "FIFA president [Gianni] Infantino has to be applauded for trying to give more countries an opportunity to participate in this wonderful tournament.

"But what makes the World Cup special is its competitiveness and the high level of football and this has to be maintained at all costs. To have more teams playing matches that are not as interesting to watch would actually damage the tournament."

The former Brazil internationals were speaking at an event ahead of the Best FIFA Football Awards Ceremony in Zurich. They were joined by other greats of the game, who also expressed fears over how an expanded World Cup could affect matters on the pitch.

FIFA has been consulting former leading players on its plans for the tournament ahead of the Zurich vote.

Marcel Desailly, who won the World Cup with France in 1998 and has been involved in the discussions with world football's governing body, said: "On paper, it is a wonderful idea. It could be good for football and also for the finances of the game.

"But the integrity of the World Cup has to be maintained. Smaller teams will be given more chances to qualify but we have to ensure that they are not there to just make up the numbers, get thrashed and then come home. This would not be good for football."

Former Spain defender Michel Salgado said: "Many players like me were sceptical at first when FIFA briefed us on its plans for the tournament. On one hand, this is a financial move that will generate more money for the game.

"But football is more than a business and the World Cup is its most treasured asset, generating excitement for millions of fans. FIFA must ensure that whatever the size of the World Cup, nothing affects this. As former players, this is our main concern."