FIFA President Gianni Infantino argued "this has been the best group stage of a FIFA World Cup ever" ©Getty Images

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has claimed that the World Cup group stage in Qatar was the "best-ever" in the tournament's history, and it has demonstrated "there are no more small teams and no more big teams."

"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," Infantino said.

"So, it’s very promising for the remainder of the FIFA World Cup.

"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."

He also pointed to television viewership figures of more than two billion around the world.

Three teams from Asia and two from Africa qualified for the last 16, although only Morocco progressed to the quarter-finals.

Infantino argued that this represented progress in football globally.

"There are no more small teams and no more big teams," he insisted.

"The level is very, very equal.

"For the first time as well, national teams from all continents going to the knock-out phase, for the first time in history.

"This shows that football is really becoming truly global."

Gianni Infantino suggested
Gianni Infantino suggested "the level is very, very equal" at the World Cup ©Getty Images

Infantino also described Russia 2018 as "the best" World Cup ever, and made a similar prediction for Qatar 2022 prior to the tournament.

Qatar 2022 is set to mark the last 32-team men's World Cup, with FIFA planning a revamp of the 2026 tournament in the United States, Canada and Mexico to include 48 teams in 16 groups of three.

Reports have suggested that FIFA officials are having second thoughts on the three-team group idea, with 12 groups of four a potential alternative, although this would lead to a significant increase in the number of matches to be played.

Qatar's hosting of the World Cup has been scrutinised heavily because of the country's treatment of migrant workers, criminalisation of homosexuality and lack of women's rights.

The Swiss official, also an International Olympic Committee member, held a remarkable pre-World Cup press conference dominated by criticism of Western "hypocrisy" and a series of statements beginning with "today I feel" in defence of the host nation's record on human rights.

However, Infantino expressed his belief that it has proved a success so far.

Gianni Infantino insisted
Gianni Infantino insisted "we simply want to give some joy" ©Getty Images

"We hope that the FIFA World Cup continues and concludes as it has started - a fantastic success," he commented.

"I am sure that we will reach the five billion viewers around the world.

"When it comes to stadium attendances, the stadiums are sold-out, full practically at every match.

"The fan festivals, the different fan zones, are also very crowded with people celebrating and enjoying [themselves].

"And 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."

Infantino is set for re-election as FIFA President at next year's Congress in Kigali as the only candidate, although a small number of European National Federations have criticised his leadership during Qatar 2022.