Gary Lineker hails ‘greatest World Cup group stage in history’ – but warns FIFA

Gary Lineker has hailed Qatar 2022 for having the 'greatest group stage in World Cup history' – but warned FIFA things won't be the same in 2026 as things stand.

Former England striker Lineker, who picked up the Golden Boot at the tournament in 1986, is in Qatar as the lead BBC presenter and enjoyed the group stage in which no side was able to win all three matches – with only two sides failing to pick up a point.

But despite his glowing review of the fixtures that have been and passed, Lineker has taken aim at FIFA's early plans to have 16 groups of three teams with 48 teams set to take part instead of 32 in 2026.

READ MORE: Gary Lineker jokes about ITV 'curse' with England's World Cup last-16 clash not on BBC

Lineker tweeted on the conclusion of the group stages: "The greatest group stage in World Cup history comes to an end.

"At present It won’t be repeated at the next World Cup as the current plan is not to have simultaneous final group games. 16 groups of 3 in 2026."

Then added: "I think they must have a rethink. With 2 teams qualifying, imagine how many groups will be settled by a draw/convenient result in the final game."

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However, Eurosport have reported that FIFA had already begun talks over abandoning the three team group format that would see only one team eliminated from each.

Football's governing body announced the new structure back in 2017 which would've seen the knockout stages begin with a round of 32 instead of 16.

Former German national team coach Joachim Low was among those to question the idea at the time, with fans agreeing with the stance of Lineker this week.

One fan said: "Been unbelievable these groups! Not broke don’t fix it kinda thing."

A second agreed: "Current format is perfect hope they don’t change it."

A third concluded: "Lineker is right on all counts. This group stage has been brilliant, 2026’s sounds awful if they don’t fix it."


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