• 48 Teams, 104 Games 2026 Format Offers No Advantage To Africa
Former national team coach, Christian Chukwu, has advised Super Eagles’ technical crew and players to rise above the disappointment of not making the Qatar 2022 World Cup and show the world that they are still a powerhouse in football.

Nigeria lost the 2022 World Cup ticket to Ghana. The football extravaganza was hosted by Qatar. It was the first time the team failed to qualify for the Copa du Mundo since 2006.

The Eagles will begin another campaign to qualify for international football on March 24, but this time, the target is the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) to be hosted by Cote d’Ivoire. The Eagles will host Guinea Bissau in Abuja on March 24 and travel to Bissau for the return leg on March 27.

Chukwu told The Guardian that though Nigeria’s failure to make the World Cup in Qatar is painful, the games against Guinea Bissau are good opportunities for the Eagles to reassert their greatness in African football.

He also advised the team against underrating Guinea Bissau, even though they are not among the A list teams in Africa, saying that in modern football there are no more weak sides.

The former Super Eagles coach urged the technical crew to ensure that only the best available players are selected for the matches, saying that picking players on sentiments can ruin Nigeria’s chances of returning to international football.

“Nigeria cannot afford to miss the 2024 AFCON after not playing in the last World Cup. So, everybody involved, including the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), the coaches and the players should take preparations for the Guinea Bissau game seriously.
“The players should be mentally focused for the games because in African football there are no more small teams,” he said.

Also speaking on FIFA’s decision to increase the number of teams at the World Cup from 32 to 48, beginning with the 2026 edition, Chukwu said that the format is of no advantage to African teams because all of them in the World Cup have equal chances of excelling at the tournament.

FIFA, at its council meeting last Tuesday in Kigali, Rwanda, approved the increase in number of teams that would be at the 2026 World Cup to be hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico to 48, which ensures that all the teams play a minimum of three matches, while providing balanced rest time between competing teams.

This format means that matches of the competition will now be 104 against the 64 games played in the 2022 tournament.

Speaking on the development, Chukwu said: “Though Africa will have more representatives in the World Cup, they still have to play equal number of matches with other teams. So, at the end of the day, success will boil down to the teams that prepare well and have quality players.

“For Nigeria to go far in the next World Cup, they have to qualify first and thereafter, adopt a well tailored programme that will aid the players and technical crew to be at their best at the competition.”

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