Benelux countries announce 2018 World Cup bid

November 14, 2007

BRUSSELS, Nov 14 (Reuters) - The Benelux countries of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg officially told FIFA on Wednesday of their interest in hosting the 2018 World Cup, soccer's world governing body said in a statement.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter met with the presidents of the Belgian and Dutch football associations and bid director Alain Courtois, who was director of the Belgian half of the 2000 European championship co-hosted with the Netherlands.

'There are no borders between our countries...remember, we successfully hosted Euro 2000,' Courtois, a Belgian member of parliament, told FIFA during the meeting.

FIFA said in its statement that it was important for the governing body to have only one point of contact at local organising committee level.

Blatter had said previously that FIFA was not in favour of future joint bids for soccer's showpiece event.

Only one of the 18 World Cups has been split between two countries - the 2002 finals in South Korea and Japan.

'We have presented ourselves explicitly as one candidate and not with two separate organising committees,' Jeu Sprengers, chairman of the Dutch FA told his association's website.

'Normally there are 15 or 20 bigger associations who can handle the job. But in Blatter's opinion Belgium and the Netherlands can be a good example to smaller football associations.'

All matches would be played in Belgium and the Netherlands, with Luxembourg's involvement restricted to hosting a FIFA congress. Unlike the other hosts, Luxembourg would not receive automatic qualification for the finals.

FIFA's decision last month to drop its rotation policy for a more Olympic-style bidding process has already paved the way for many countries to indicate their interest in hosting the 2018 event.

England have emerged as favourites to bring the event to the home of the game for the first time since 1966 when they won soccer's top trophy on home soil.

Japan and Australia have also indicated their interest, while China, the United States, Russia and Spain are also said to be investigating a bid.

South Africa will host the finals in 2010, with the event taking place in Brazil four years later.

FIFA will decide the 2018 hosts in 2011.