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World Cup 2018 bid

When was the WC bid ever off-track?

February 2, 2010
By John Iannantuono

It was hardly surprising to hear that FIFA president Sepp Blatter had 'clarified' his statements in relation to streamlining the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Sepp Blatter
GettyImagesBlatter has suggested the 2018 World Cup is almost certain to be held in Europe

Last week, Blatter had spoken of a "movement" that is building to ensure the World Cup is returned to Europe when voting for the 2018 tournament is held later this year. During his visit to Madrid for a chinwag with Spanish PM José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Blatter publicly explained this movement by stating: "Only a European candidate will be evaluated for the 2018 World Cup. It's still not decided, but it's an idea to help facilitate the work of FIFA and its executive committee."

It was a clear ploy by Blatter and co to shift the goalposts to favour the European bidding teams - England, Netherlands/Belgium, Russia and Spain/Portugal - and perhaps appease UEFA president Michel Platini, who is widely tipped to eventually challenge Blatter for the FIFA hot seat.

In Australia, it was no surprise that fans and media outlets reacted in similar fashion to the way they vented when Blatter withdrew Oceania's - well, Australia's - direct entry to the 2006 World Cup.

Since then, the Australian public has had a jaded view of FIFA's modus operandi - particularly that of Blatter - so his comments on such a proposal would have done very little to promote any thoughts that Australia would have a legitimate chance at successfully bidding for the 2018 tournament. So when Blatter sought to hose down tempers with a dose of good cop-bad cop role-playing at the weekend, the nation collectively took his words with a pinch of salt.

"There is a movement that 2018 should go to Europe," Blatter told a media gathering in Angola ahead of the African Nations Cup final. "[But] I said it's a possibility only if other associations do not bid.

"It is not a decision for the [FIFA] executive committee to change the right of every association to bid for a World Cup. When FIFA opened the bidding procedure for 2018 and 2022, it was open for everybody with the exception of Africa and South America because they are organising the 2010 and 2014 World Cups."

Way to go to ease those concerns, Sepp. To its credit, Football Federation Australia has played a straight bat throughout the controversy and maintained its continued public display of optimism, saying Blatter's comments made little impact on their 2018 aspirations and they weren't too concerned anyway, given the FFA are also bidding for the 2022 tournament.

Australia fans
GettyImagesAustralian fans may have to wait a while longer before getting the World Cup

''Nothing has changed. I think there was a storm in a teacup,'' FFA chairman Frank Lowy said in an interview at the weekend. ''It's blatantly clear what [the European movement] want, but will they get it? It will depend on who votes for them. They can't exclude us, they can't exclude the United States, they can't exclude Japan. We have made a legitimate bid. You can't change the goalposts in the middle of the game."

True, you can't change the goalposts in the middle of the game, but you can have a chat to the referee at half-time, which is symbolic of the tactics seen to be in use by the powers that be.

It seems that it would be highly unlikely that Australia, or any other nation outside of Europe, will pip England for 2018, considering Europe - the epicenter of world football - has historically hosted every second World Cup since its inception. Given Brazil has been awarded the showpiece event for 2014 - the first time the World Cup will grace South America since Argentina '78 - it's foolhardy to think Europe will be content to wait until 2022 to have its day in the sun again.

From the outset, it has always been perceived that Australia has a better chance at landing the 2022 World Cup than the 2018 version. Blatter was simply stating what everyone secretly knows but isn't quite prepared to say so publicly.

Blatter's comments may not have derailed Australia's bidding plan, but they have still resonated poorly with fans and done nothing for their belief in a fair and equitable system.