uefa.logoEurope will battle for at least one extra qualifying place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia as it dominates the world rankings, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said Monday.

Different continental federations are jostling for places in the 32-country finals ahead of a FIFA decision on the regional allocation in May. Africa, Asia and the Americas all say they deserve more.

Europe had 13 countries at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and already get one more in 2018 as Russia are the hosts.

“I think there is a good 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.

He also stressed that the last three World Cup winners — Germany,  Spain and Italy — were European.

“I think that its objective and fair to be asking for one more position only. We could ask for more than one,” Infantino said.

“To crown the world champion you must have the best teams in the competition.”

Europe is keeping the same qualifying format used for the 2014 finals with nine groups, Infantino said. The nine group winners get a place in the  finals and the eight best runners-up will enter a playoff for the four other places.

A FIFA executive committee meeting in Zurich in May is to decide the final qualifying allocation and fierce negotiations are expected.

In Brazil, there were 13 European nations, five African countries, Asia had four automatic slots, South America four places plus hosts Brazil, and North and Central America three automatic places. Two were decided in play-offs.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has encouraged non-European confederations to seek more places. FIFA executive member Theo Zwanziger of Germany said last year that Europe could lose a place to Africa.

“I cannot imagine a World Cup with less than 13 — plus one as the host — European teams taking place,” Infantino said of suggestions that Europe could lose a place. – Agence France-Presse

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