By Nick Harris
10 June 2010
Australia have withdrawn from the race to stage the 2018 World Cup to focus their attentions of the 2022 event. Fifa and Australia’s football federation (FFA) have released a joint statement to that effect after it became obvious that the 2018 race is going to be a Europe-only affair.
This has been known unofficially for months, but Fifa has deigned not to tell anybody, not openly at least. In fact the USA still remains, officially, in the race for 2018 as well as 2022, for the moment at least.
Earlier this week, the Asian Football Confederation effectively made the Europe-only 2018 race a formality when the AFC’s president, Mohamed Bin Hammam, said the AFC was backing a European event that year, and this despite Australia being inside Asia in Fifa terms.
The 2018 race will now intensify, with England and Russia the front runners, and Portugal-Spain (jointly) and Netherlands-Belgium (jointly) the other candidates.
On the campaign trail in South Africa, David Beckham, an England 2018 vice-president, and the former South Africa and Leeds captain, Lucas Radebe (pictured below) today joined a bid delegation including chief executive, Andy Anson and international president, David Dein, at the Fifa Bidders Expo in Johannesburg.
Each of the bidding nations for the 2018 and 2022 Fifa World Cups hosted a stand at the exhibition which followed the 60th Annual Fifa Congress. All Fifa members were entitled to attend the event and meet with delegates from the bidding nations.
Beckham and Radebe have previously made appearances together on behalf of England 2018. In December 2009, they visited an English FA International Development Programme project called Coaching for Hope in Khaylitsha, during the week of the FIFA World Cup Draw. They were also both key figures at the England 2018 launch event at Wembley Stadium in May 2009.