England and Russia, who go head to head on Wednesday on the football pitch are set to be the main European contenders bidding for the 2018 World Cup.
Sepp Blatter's confirmation that he wants an end to rotation of the finals between different continents follows months of hints from the Fifa president that he is in favour of opening up the bidding. Richard Caborn, Prime Minister Gordon Brown's World Cup Ambassador for 2018, welcomed Blatter's comments. England and Russia are now both certain to bid, and they are likely to face opposition from China, Australia and a joint bid from the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. A decision is expected to be taken this month by the executive committee of Fifa, football's world governing body, ending the current rotation system that secured the 2010 finals for Africa – South Africa won the bid – and 2014 for South America, where Brazil were the only bidders.
"I am advocating we open the market – it will give a better competition," Blatter said. "We are not in a very comfortable situation in South America. We only have one bidder and, if we maintain this rotation system as we have now, that could be the case again. It would be better to have three or four associations."
Caborn said: "It's good to hear Sepp Blatter is supporting the case for a more open competition for the World Cup in 2018."
l Freddie Kanouté, the former Spur, delighted Arsenal fans yesterday when his goal helped earn Mali a place in the African Nations Cup finals at the expense of Togo. Emmanuel Adebayor will thus be available to Arsène Wenger when rival strikers, like Didier Drogba, head to Ghana in January for up to six weeks. Qualifying concludes today with Egypt hoping to seal a place despite the absence of Mido through injury.Reuse content