Saudi Arabia's Mohammed bin Salman (right) with FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Saudi Sports Minister Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al Faisal in October 2023
Australia will not bid for the 2034 Men's World Cup, clearing the way for Saudi Arabia. "We have evaluated the possibility of bidding to host the FIFA World Cup and, after considering all factors, have come to the conclusion that we will not do so for the 2034 competition," the Australian Football Federation (FA) said in a statement on Tuesday.
This Tuesday, the deadline for an expression of interest to the world governing body Fifa expires. Saudi Arabia, which has already brought world football stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo into its own league and wants to gain an international reputation as an organizer in many other sports, has already made its intention clear and is considered the clear favorite.
Australia looking to secure other tournaments
At the beginning of October, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) had already supported a Saudi bid. After speculation about a joint bid by Australia, Indonesia and New Zealand or by Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, Indonesia also expressed its support for Saudi Arabia. As a result, the Australians' already slim chances dropped to zero.
However, the statement of the Australian federation did not mention Saudi Arabia nor did it support the Gulf state's bid.
FIFA recently made a fundamental decision to host the 2030 World Cup in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay at the beginning and then in Morocco, Spain and Portugal, which still has to be approved by the FIFA Congress. Therefore, only nations from Asia and Oceania can apply for the 2034 tournament.
Saudi Arabia announced its intentions almost immediately afterwards. The decision had been heavily criticized, especially in Germany. Saudi Arabia, like last World Cup host Qatar, has been criticized for its human rights record and sportswashing.
Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia has long been considered the favorite of Fifa chief Infantino. A World Cup in the country of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is expected to be king until 2034, is considered particularly lucrative. It also seems possible that the tournament will be held again in autumn or winter, similar to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Australia will instead try to secure the hosting rights for the 2029 Club World Cup and the 2026 Women's Asian Cup. Saudi Arabia has also applied for the latter.
"We believe we are in a strong position to host the world's oldest international women's competition, the AFC Women's Asian Cup 2026, and then host the best teams in world football for the 2029 Club World Cup," the FA statement said.