Marcello Lippi believes a World Cup without nations such as Italy and Netherlands is “not complete”, with the veteran coach backing a FIFA proposal to expand the tournament to 48 teams.
Lippi, who led the Azzurri to glory at the 2006 tournament, is in charge of China, who missed out on qualification for Russia 2018.
Italy lost a play-off to Sweden after failing to score in either leg, while Netherlands finished third in their qualifying pool behind the Janne Andersson’s side and Group A winners France.
But 69-year-old Lippi believes the World Cup will not be the same without two of Europe’s traditional superpowers.
“Italy and Netherlands failing to qualify for a World Cup is a low-probability event,” Lippi told Chinese outlet PPTV.
“FIFA’s current plan to expand the tournament to 48 teams [from 2026] is quite reasonable because it serves to reduce the likelihood of such low-probability events.
“I recommend eight European teams and eight South American teams are automatically qualified for the World Cup.
“A World Cup is not complete without such strong teams. We need to respect the fact that the World Cup has a history of hosting traditional superpowers.
“Argentina qualified for the World Cup in the last round [of qualifiers]. Just imagine a World Cup without [Lionel] Messi. Something doesn’t seem right.”
You’ve had some time to think about the #WorldCupDraw
We want to know which you think is the toughest group and why? pic.twitter.com/WMbGr4x4jU
— #WorldCupDraw (@FIFAWorldCup) December 1, 2017
The 2002 tournament – which was held in South Korea and Japan – is the only time China have ever made it to the finals.
But Lippi, who survived strong speculation he could be fired in August, holds out hope China will be able to reach the World Cup again.
“I hope China make it to the World Cup in 2026 – and I will be 82 years old by then,” Lippi added.
“If China could only qualify for the World Cup in 2030, I will still have a celebration, even on crutches.”
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