FIFA president Gianni Infantino claims that spreading matches at a larger 2022 World Cup in Qatar to neighbouring countries could help bring peace to the Middle East.

Infantino is pressing ahead with a proposal to expand the tournament from 32 to 48 teams, which would mean matches being shared among countries hostile to the hosts.

He acknowledges the chances are minimal but emphasises his belief that football can help to heal political hostilities which led last year to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt enforcing an economic blockade against Qatar.

"Maybe football is a way to build bridges," Infantino says in an interview in the Guardian marking four years to the start of the next World Cup.

"We have seen as well with the bidding for 2026, the right to organise the World Cup was awarded to three countries (USA, Canada and Mexico) which I think also don't have the very best political or diplomatic relationships. But football makes miracles, as we know."

Despite global outrage at Saudi Arabia following the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Infantino said discussions about sharing World Cup matches could help Saudi Arabia "evolve" and have "a nice impact."

"Obviously the relationship with (Qatar's) neighbouring countries is a factor which is complicating the situation; on the other hand, even though there are complicated or difficult diplomatic relations, when it comes to football people talk to each other," Infantino said.

Infantino pointed out that despite the blockade Qatari teams were still playing football in Asian Football Confederation competitions against teams from the other countries in the Gulf and wider Middle East.
"Be positive about it: we can do something for the world - and for football. It could happen, anything could happen. Let's take it step by step. Yes, maybe the chances are small but I am a very optimistic person generally, so we will see the situation."