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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman with Cristiano Ronaldo, Fifa president Gianni Infantino and Saudi sports minister Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Turki Al Faisal. Image Credit: Reuters

Abu Dhabi: President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan wished success for Saudi Arabia in organising the Fifa World Cup 2034.

The President also expressed his best wishes of further progress and prosperity for the Kingdom under the wise leadership of King Salman Bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia became the sole bidder to host the 2034 World Cup after Australia confirmed it would not make a bid for football’s global showpiece on Tuesday’s deadline day.

Tri-continental bid

Saudi Arabia was initially interested in bidding for the 2030 World Cup alongside Egypt and Greece, but that idea was abandoned in June, leaving the path open for the tri-continental bid.

Saudi Arabia announced its intention to bid for the 2034 event on October 4, as soon as the procedure had been launched.

As a result of the continental rotation, Fifa had only “invited” member countries of the Asian and Oceanian confederations to apply — thus ruling out the traditional footballing heartlands.

At one stage, Indonesia had considered a joint bid with Australia, or even other countries such as New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore, but on October 19 it agreed to support Saudi Arabia’s bid.

Australia, which successfully hosted the Women’s World Cup this year, was also a contender but withdrew its interest on Monday following the Asian Football Confederation’s decision to back the Saudi bid.

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Saudi Arabian players celebrate after Salem Al Dawsari scored his second goal during their shock win over Argentina in Qatar World Cup 2022. Image Credit: AP

Expression of interest

At this point, only “expressions of interest” have been submitted. After the full bids for 2030 and 2034 are handed over, they will be evaluated by Fifa and put to a vote at two separate congress meetings at the end of 2024. But the absence of any competition leaves little room for suspense.

By securing the world’s most popular tournament, however, the kingdom faces an even bigger job than its neighbour Qatar, who hosted the 2022 World Cup.

The tournament will no longer be a 32-team event. From 2026, 48 teams will be present at the finals. According to Fifa, that means 104 matches, which require “a minimum of 14 stadiums” with between 40,000 and 80,000 seats and at least “72 base camps”.

— With inputs from agencies