SYDNEY, Nov 26 (Reuters) The whole of Asia could join forces to support Australia's bid to stage the 2018 World Cup ahead of a European rival, AFC President Mohamed Bin Hammam said today.
Bin Hammam said that after successfully staging the 2002 World Cup, Asia deserved to host the 2018 finals but their only chance of beating their European rivals was with a united bid.
''As a confederation, we have to go in with one bid, we can't have two or three...we just couldn't afford that,'' Bin Hammam, who is in Sydney for Wednesday's AFC Player of the Year Award ceremony, told reporters.
''We would have to come to a stage where we have to decide which one has the best chance and advise the other bidders to withdraw for the benefit of the other.
''If we have one bid, all Asia can go and fight for that candidate but if there are two or more bids it will be very difficult.'' Bin Hammam said he had no preferences as to which country Asia should support but said Australia, which is the only Asian country to have publicly declared their interest in staging the event, was a worthy candidate.
''Australia would be a very good venue for the World Cup, I think everyone would like to play in Australia,'' Bin Hammam said.
''I would not hesitate at all to invite other countries to support a bid from Australia.
''I think we do have a chance if we have one candidate and I would be happy with one bid from Australia.
''At this stage, there is nobody else. We've heard (rumours) about China, I'd be happy if China (was to bid) but we've heard nothing official.'' Although the decision on who will host the 2018 World Cup is not due until 2011 and the bidding process will remain open until 2009, several countries have already indicated they plan to bid after FIFA announced they were scrapping their continental rotation policy.
England, Belgium and Netherlands, Mexico and the US have all joined Australia in expressing their interest.
''Our position hasn't changed. It's our intention to prepare a bid but there's a lot of work to be done first,'' Geoff Parmenter, Football Federation of Australia's Head of Marketing, Communication and Strategy, told Reuters.
REUTERS AB KN1418