Australia ready 2018 World Cup bid

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The Independent Football

The head of Australian football Frank Lowy is determined to press ahead with a bid to host the 2018 World Cup despite Sepp Blatter, president of the world governing body Fifa, suggesting the country would be better served by bidding for the 2022 tournament.

Lowy, the Football Federation Australia chairman, said he was still hopeful despite the fact Europe is virtually assured of getting hosting rights after the abandonment of Fifa's rotation policy.

"I want to make it clear that we are aiming to host the 2018 World Cup," he said in Brisbane. "While I understand that there is a view emanating from Europe that it may well be the turn of Europe to be the hosts in 2018, the fact is football is a world game. Europe has been the focus of football growth and development for much of the past 80 years, but the future of football is in the 'new world' – that is, the developing and growing regions of the world such as Asia."

England, Spain, Russia and a combined bid from Belgium and the Netherlands are expected to be the contenders for 2018, while China and Qatar are also considering a bid, meaning Australia would have to win a run-off before embarking on its bid proper.

In Brisbane, meanwhile, Harry Kewell got his 10th goal for Australia to secure a 1-0 win against Iraq yesterday and extend the Socceroos' lead in Asian qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. Kewell headed past the goalkeeper Noor Sabri in the 47th minute at the Suncorp Stadium after Iraq created more opportunities in the first half.

Australia top Group One with seven points from three matches, while Iraq have only one point. Qatar and China, who play today in their third games, have three and two points, respectively.

The 20 teams in Asia are split into five groups, with the winners and runners-up reaching the final group phase, from which four advance to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The two next-best teams will then play off for the right to face the Oceania group winner for another place.

Iraq were able to play yesterday after Fifa three days ago "temporarily and conditionally" lifted a one-year ban against the country. The suspension was imposed after the Iraqi government dissolved all the nation's sports bodies, including the Iraqi Football Association. Iraq's authorities told Fifa the Association had been excluded from the sports overhaul and remained in power. Fifa said it still has concerns about the Iraqi government's attempts to control the nation's sports federations.