Friday, June 11, 2010

Australia pull out of 2018 WC bid

Australia bowed to the inevitable by pulling the plug on its bid for the 2018 World Cup.

But the good news is Australia remains a strong chance to host the 2022 World Cup, with many observers painting it as a two-horse race between Australia and the United States.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) boss Frank Lowy made the about-face and publicly dropped the 2018 bid just a day after he had insisted the 2018 and 2022 bids were both live.

This was despite a controversial statement from his Asian confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam that Asia was throwing its support behind Europe for 2018.

But Lowy said on Thursday (Friday AEST) that Australia had now decided to leave the 2018 field to European contenders.

The football world generally had long tipped Europe for the 2018 cup, as it would be unlikely to miss hosting three tournaments since Germany 2006.

"We have been in discussion with FIFA for months and it is that trusting relationship that has caused us to focus on 2022," Lowy said in a statement.

Australia's decision to withdraw its candidacy leaves the Holland-Belgium, Spain-Portugal joint bids as well as the United States, England and Russia as the 2018 contenders.

For the 2022 tournament, Australia will compete with Qatar, USA, Japan and South Korea.

FIFA welcomed Australia's move, which followed months of close dialogue.

"The FFA have displayed an exemplary level of solidarity with Europe, and were among the very first to enter into an open and constructive dialogue with me after it became apparent there was a growing movement to stage the 2018 World Cup in Europe," said FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke.

The FFA gesture was "much appreciated" by FIFA's leadership, he said.

A day earlier, Lowy said he was unconcerned by Bin Hammam's support for Europe.

"Who cares? So he's not supporting us for 2018 but he's supporting us for 2022," Lowy said.

"This is the AFC's choice. We are bidding for both."

That is no longer the case, and Australia can now concentrate on mounting a serious challenge for 2022 alone.

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