Infantino hails 'best ever' World Cup group stage

FIFA President Gianni Infantino gives thumbs-up during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group G football match between Brazil and Switzerland at Stadium 974 in Doha on November 28, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

DOHA, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- FIFA president Gianni Infantino has described the FIFA World Cup group stage as the best ever following record-breaking attendances and television audiences.

Infantino commended the quality of football displayed by the 32 teams and underlined the passion of fans inside the stadium and at the FIFA Fan Festivals.

"I have seen all the matches, indeed, and put very simply and very clearly, this has been the best group stage of a FIFA World Cup ever. So, it's very promising for the remainder of the [tournament]," he said.

"The matches have been of great, great quality in beautiful stadiums - we knew that already. However, as well, the public who was there was incredible. Over 51,000 on average."

Infantino added: "Record-breaking figures on TV - we've already had over two billion viewers, which is really incredible. Two-and-a-half million people in the streets of Doha and a few hundred thousand every day in the stadiums, all together, cheering together, supporting their teams, fantastic atmosphere, great goals, incredible excitement and surprises."

A cornerstone of Infantino's long-term plan has been to work with member associations and confederations to raise global competitiveness.

"There are no more small teams and no more big teams," the FIFA President said. "The level is very, very equal."

The cumulative attendance of matches played during the group stage was 2.45 million, while the round of 16 featured 28 goals over eight games - a tournament record.

"We hope that the FIFA World Cup continues and concludes as it has started - a fantastic success. I am sure that we will reach five billion viewers around the world," Infantino said.

"At the end [of the day], we simply want to give some joy and some smiles to people all over the world. That's what football is about, that's what the FIFA World Cup is about, and that's what should also happen from now until the end."