25 Sep 2021

All Whites back two-year World Cup cycle

6:23 am on 25 September 2021

Former All Whites captain Ryan Nelsen says New Zealand's biggest current football stars love the idea of a biennial World Cup.

Former All White Ryan Nelsen

Former All White Ryan Nelsen Photo: Photosport

Fifa was exploring the possibility as part of a project to overhaul and modernise the sport's match calendar.

And as project leader Arsene Wegner proclaimed he was ready to take the gamble with his proposals, Nelsen said he was not alone in seeing the upside when it came to his home nation.

The man who led the All Whites to the 2010 World Cup, and spent almost a decade in the English Premier League, said he had talked to current New Zealand captain Chris Wood and former skipper Winston Reid about the potential changes.

"Every player wants to play in meaningful tournaments ... ask any player," Nelsen told RNZ's Nine To Noon.

"I spoke to Winston Reid and Chris Wood and they were like 'Oh my god, I could have gone to a World Cup [every two years], unbelievable'."

The project, though, was not being welcomed by everyone.

The idea had come under fire in the footballing stronghold of Europe, with one of the key criticisms being a lack of space for a biennial World Cup in an already packed match calendar.

There were currently five international windows in each year, with players switching back-and-forth between club and national team football.

Nelsen said that was exactly one of the issues the proposals addressed.

"They're playing too many games right now. There's too much of a toll on the players.

"This way, yes there's another tournament, but they actually play less games. Less qualifying, less friendlies and less windows...

"[This would] cut down the five windows so it's less travel, less games and cut out the meaningless friendlies."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Wegner also remained steadfast in his view this approach to revamping the calendar was the best way forward for the sport.

His plan included a World Cup in even years, confederation tournaments in odd years and either one (October) or two (October and March) mid-season international breaks, when qualifying for major tournaments would happen.

There would also be guaranteed rest periods of 25 days for players once tournaments were over.

In his latest interview on the issue, Wegner told the BBC he didn't agree with many critics that a biennial cycle would devalue football's showpiece tournament.

"The World Cup is such a huge event that I don't think it will diminish the prestige. You want to be the best in the world and you want to be the best in the world every year.

"I'm not on an ego trip. I've been asked to help to shape the calendar of tomorrow, I consult the whole world.

"I was a long time manager at Arsenal and I felt always that the separation between international competition and club competition was not good enough.

"After the proposal for the World Cup every two years sometimes [there is an] emotional response.

"I'm not surprised. Many people who were completely against it changed their mind after having seen my proposal."

Fifa would hold an online summit with its member associations on 30 September to discuss the international men's and women's calendars.

The current match calendar for the women's game ran to the end of 2023, while the men's expired in 2024.