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13 nations, including Australia, bid for World Cup
Daily Telegraph (NSW Metropolitan, 4 February 2009)

ENGLAND, Australia, the United States and South Korea are among the 13 countries to have formally expressed their interest in hosting the 2018 or 2022 World Cups, FIFA says.

The 11 potential bids include joint efforts by Belgium and the Netherlands, who have already linked up to stage Euro 2000, and from 1982 World Cup hosts Spain and Euro 2004 hosts Portugal.

Indonesia, Japan (2002 co-hosts with South Korea), Russia, Mexico, the venue for the 1970 World Cup, and Qatar were the other countries that came forward by Monday's preliminary deadline, world football's governing body said in a statement on Tuesday.

One nation noticeable by its absence from this list is China, who decided to pull out of the race due to the serious problems and low standards of the game in the country, state media reported.

The 13 potential hosts now have to firm up their interest and register their bids by March 16.

The host nations are due to be appointed by FIFA's executive committee in December 2010, about six months after they are meant to have submitted detailed bids.

The situation over joint bidders is uncertain with FIFA's executive committee set to decide by the March deadline whether to change their rules to permit joint bids.

"It is remarkable that so many high-quality contenders have expressed an initial interest in hosting our flagship competition," said FIFA president Sepp Blatter, calling football a "symbol of hope and integration".

"The current worldwide economic crisis has brought another dimension of uncertainty into the lives of many people around the world," he said.

"Football has an extraordinary power to unite people, as well as an ability to inspire emotions of hope, passion and joy," Blatter added.

No African countries have come forward to succeed South Africa, which will become the first African country to host football's World Cup next year.

Latin American countries were out of the running since Brazil is due to host the event in 2014.

England, the 1966 hosts and champions, are perceived as being among the favourites although one bid board member, Sir Keith Mills, was last week keen to play down that role.

"I don't think we are the favourites at all now," he claimed.

"There's going to be strong competition from Spain and Portugal and Russia, and we shouldn't underestimate that.

"Australia will be getting the backing of Asia so it is not a foregone conclusion at all.

"But we are in a good starting position and providing we put a good bid together I believe we have a better than evens chance of succeeding." | End

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