26-man squads at 2022 World Cup squads are change for change’s sake

There was a good reason for increasing squad sizes for the recent European Championships, but

World Cup teams will be able to name larger squads, and up to 55 players in preliminary groups

Why don’t they all just stand on the sideline, drink Gatorade and help wingers to their feet when they tumble out of play?

Give the coach a laminated clipboard, and one of those headsets with one earpiece and a microphone?

Heck, get the ref to throw down a yellow hankie – sorry, flag – rather than blow his whistle.

After all, Harry Kane loves his NFL.

At this year’s World Cup, managers will have 15 ­substitutes to choose from.

That is 52 players warming up for a match. Presumably there are no pokey dressing rooms in Qatar.

If there was a communal bath, it would have to be the size of Blackpool Lido.

It is change for change’s sake.

FIFA and all those who want a thousand subs say they are doing it in the cause of player welfare.

Maybe they actually believe that, but it will turn out to be utter nonsense.

Player welfare?

Here is a prediction.

Every manager at Qatar 2022 will play his strongest available team in every game unless that game happens to be some sort of dead rubber.

If Gareth Southgate’s starting XI wins its opener against Iran, the same starting XI will – ­assuming they are all fit – take to the pitch for the next fixture against the USA.

And so on, unless ­qualification has been assured ahead of the final group match.

What do you make of the squad size increase? Have your say in the comments section

Gareth Southgate will be allowed to name a 26-man squad for the World Cup



Yet FIFA have confirmed what we have known for some considerable time and ­managers will be allowed to name 26-man squads.

It might not be that much of a big deal, but it is chipping away at the fundamental nature of the game.

With 15 subs being allowed on the bench and five allowed to go on, the prospect of coaches selecting penalty ­specialists – with no hope of starting a match – in their travelling party is obvious. James Ward-Prowse, pack your bags, son.

There were, of course, ­extenuating circumstances for UEFA sanctioning 26-man squads for Euro 2020, but there was no way FIFA were going to return to the 23-man limit.

And, for good measure, the number on a preliminary squad list has gone up from 35 to 55.

England will have more players to choose from when they make substitutions


Getty Images)

Yep, in late October, ­Southgate can name 55 players in his preliminary squad. As, on any given matchday, there tend to be only around 80 England-­qualified starters in the Premier League, you’ve got to fancy your chances of making that group.

The sole real purpose of that preliminary squad is that if a player later has to withdraw from the 26-man squad, he can only be replaced by ­someone on that list of 55 names.

More bureaucratic FIFA ­nonsense, in other words.

On a more serious note, ­26-man squads do pose a ­morale issue for the coach.

Let’s face it, most players will know their place in the pecking order. In a 26-man squad, there will be several who know their chances of getting a kick are slim and none.

That will make any sort of stint in Qatar a long stretch.

But hey ho, no worries, you may get on for that ­last-­second field goal – sorry, ­penalty kick – and the glory, amid the farce, could still be yours.

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