Soccer-All continents in knockout round shows growth of game, says FIFA

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Preview, Doha, Qatar - November 18, 2022 Fans take pictures with the FIFA World Cup logo on the Corniche Promenade ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

(Reuters) - The Qatar World Cup will set a record as teams from all continents have advanced to the round of 16 for the first time ever, FIFA said on Saturday.

The tournament, which concluded its group stage on Friday saw a record for the Asian Football Confederation, with three teams (Australia, Japan and South Korea) reaching the knockout stages.

Two African teams, Senegal and Morocco, are also represented in the knockout stages for the second time. In the 2014 Brazil World Cup Algeria and Nigeria reached the Round of 16.

"The outcome of the group stage shows the extent to which more countries have acquired the tools to compete at the highest level," FIFA's Chief of Global Football Development, Arsene Wenger said.

"This is the result of better preparation and analysis of the opponents, which is also a reflection of a more equal access to technology.

"It is very much in line with FIFA's efforts to increase football's competitiveness on a global scale."

FIFA also said there was a cumulative attendance of over 2.45 million spectators (96% occupancy) for the first 48 matches, the second highest after the 1994 tournament in the United States.

The tournament also saw the highest attendance in a game since the 1994 final, with 88,966 fans witnessing Argentina beating Mexico 2-0 at Lusail Stadium.

The 1994 World Cup final between Brazil and Italy had 94,194 spectators at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, United States.

(Reporting by Tommy Lund in Gdansk; Editing by Ros Russell)

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