FIFA’s decision to expand the 2026 World Cup to 48 teams was made to give Scotland a chance to return to the finals after nearly 30 years, FIFA President Gianni Infantino joked as he hailed their qualification for the Euro 2024 in Germany.

Scotland last appeared at the World Cup in France in 1998 where they finished bottom of Group A behind Brazil, Norway and Morocco. They have failed to qualify for the last six editions of the global tournament, which featured 32 teams.

After reaching a second successive Euros this year, the Scots are hopeful of making it to the 2026 World Cup, which will be co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico – the first finals to be played with the expanded format.

“Scotland qualified quite brilliantly for the European Championship,” the FIFA president told BBC Scotland on Saturday after attending St Mirren’s 2-1 home win over Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership following an IFAB meeting in Loch Lomond.

“Letting you in on the secret, we decided to increase from 32 to 48 to allow Scotland to participate.

“Scotland will have a great chance and if they do qualify I’m sure Scotland fans will have great fun.”

Scotland missed out on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, losing to Ukraine in the semi-finals of the European playoffs.

In the eight editions of the World Cup they have played, Scotland, who have the second oldest national FA in the world after England, have never got past the group stages.