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Asian nations to bid for World Cup

JUST as a consensus was forming that the 2018 World Cup will return to Europe or the Americas, there has come a sharp reminder that Asia is preparing a serious challenge.

At least three countries from the Asian confederation - Australia, Qatar and Indonesia - will be among those putting their names forward to FIFA by the Monday bidding deadline.

Indonesia announced its candidacy on Wednesday, and China and Japan were also anticipated to follow suit in the coming days. All prospective hosts for both the 2018 and 2022 events must notify FIFA of their intention to bid by Monday, with the winners announced in December 2010.

In a time of financial austerity, the European bids - from England, Spain/Portugal, Netherlands/Belgium/Luxembourg and Russia - have the advantage of existing stadiums that would allow them to host a World Cup without much additional investment.

The same can be said of the likely North American bidders: the United States, Canada and Mexico, all likely to submit applications.

However the growing wealth of nations like China and India in the Asian viewing time-zone makes it potentially the most attractive for advertisers, which drives the value of television rights, which in turn is a massive factor in FIFA's choice of host.

Australia declared its interest in hosting the World Cup shortly after being knocked out in the second round of the 2006 edition.

Qatar hosted the 2006 Asian Games and will stage the 2011 Asian Cup, and after failing to make the shortlist for the 2016 Olympics, the oil-rich Gulf nation is doubly determined to become the first Arabian World Cup host.

Qatar enjoys influence in Asian football as it is the home of Asian Football Confederation chief Mohammed Bin Hammam, a close ally of FIFA boss Sepp Blatter.

Indonesia faces more work than any of its rivals in terms of improving infrastructure and facilities, which may count against it in challenging economic times, but its population of 235 million makes it a bidder to be reckoned with.

Now the World Cup hopefuls are waiting for China and Japan to show their hands.


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