Benelux trio to apply to host 2018 World Cup

October 16, 2006

BRUSSELS, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg will formally apply in January to host the 2018 World Cup finals.

Alain Courtois, a member of the Belgian parliament and the man in charge of delivering the project, has received approval from all three associations, the governments and local authorities.

'At the moment, we are just awaiting the outcome of the elections in the Netherlands next month, but after that we should be in a position go ahead in the new year,' he said.

Courtois was tournament director when Belgium and the Netherlands jointly hosted the 2000 European championship in 2000, the first European finals to make a profit.

Australia, England, Mexico and Spain have all expressed an interest in staging the 2018 Cup. Bids remain open until 2010.

South Africa will host soccer's biggest event in four year's time while Brazil are favourites to be awarded the tournament in 2014.

Courtois said he was confident of seeing off bids from England, Italy or France.

'We will have brand new new stadiums here in Brussels, Bruges and Antwerp while the Dutch already have world class arena which will just need tweaking, so I think we are in the strongest position,' Courtois said.

He said he was unconcerned by comments made by Sepp Blatter, president of soccer's world governing body FIFA, when he said he no longer supported the idea of joint bids for the finals in a reference the 2002 finals hosted by Japan and Korea.

'Benelux is one political institution, therefore it is one bid with one organisation, not like Japan and Korea which had two separate committees,' Courtois said.