Platini sidesteps Blatter dig by calling for 40-team World Cup
Uefa president responds to calls for less European influence by suggested enlarged tournament
UEFA president Michel Platini has called for the World Cup to be expanded from 32 teams to 40 in what would amount to the biggest shake-up of the tournament in decades.
His plans are seen as a direct response to calls from Fifa president Sepp Blatter for more representation from Asia and Africa at the tournament, something that was interpreted in most quarters as a demand for fewer European teams in the finals.
However, Platini ducked the punch and "turned the argument on its head", according to the Daily Telegraph, by suggesting an overall expansion of the competition.
Next year's tournament in Brazil will feature 32 nations, with 13 European teams and only five from Africa, even though there are more Fifa member states in Africa.
"I totally agree with Mr Blatter that we need more African and Asian [countries]," Platini told The Times. "But instead of taking away some European, we have to go to 40 teams in the World Cup. We can add two African, two Asiatic, two American, one Oceania and one from Europe. I support this idea totally."
The paper reports that Platini has already conducted a "study" which shows that the tournament would only need to be extended by three days to accommodate the extra teams.
"His declaration comes amid increased tension with Blatter before the next Fifa presidential election in 2015," explains the Telegraph, which notes that the two men have agreed a "pact" not to declare their candidacy before next year's World Cup.
Asked what Blatter made of his idea, Platini told the Times: "I haven't told him yet."
Blatter's comments about excessive European influence appear designed to curry favour with Fifa members in other continents, and there was more evidence of a phony war when he took another swipe at Uefa over the issue of racism at the weekend.
"[Blatter's] comments that it was a 'nonsense' for racism to be dealt with either by inadequate fines or matches played behind closed doors was an obvious dig at Uefa's weak handling of the issue," writes Charles Sale of the Daily Mail. ·