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Saudi Arabia's 2034 World Cup bid strengthened by Indonesia u-turn

Indonesia had initially held talks with Australia regarding a joint bid

Saudi Arabia's bid to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup has taken a significant step forward, overcoming one of the few remaining hurdles in what appears to be an inevitable victory. This development comes a week after Indonesia, initially in talks with Australia about a joint bid, announced its support for Saudi Arabia's candidacy.

Erick Thohir, the Indonesian football leader, revealed the change of plan on the Indonesian Football Federation website. The announcement came just hours before an online meeting of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), which includes Australia, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia among its 47 members.

Thohir's decision to back Saudi Arabia's bid has left Australia isolated if it still intends to bid for the 2034 World Cup. This comes after Australia's successful co-hosting of the 2023 Women's World Cup with New Zealand.

FIFA president urges unity

During the AFC meeting, FIFA President Gianni Infantino called on members to "be united for the 2034 World Cup." Infantino, a known ally of Saudi football and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has been instrumental in fast-tracking the bidding for the 2034 men's tournament. This move, made two weeks ago, was seen as favourable for Saudi Arabia.

In response to Infantino's call for unity, the Japanese Federation proposed united support for the Saudi bid, a proposal that was backed by Uzbekistan, Lebanon and India. Saudi Arabia confirmed its intention to host the World Cup almost immediately after FIFA opened the contest on October 4.

Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, the AFC's president and a member of the Bahraini royal family, announced that Saudi Arabia had the united backing of the AFC within minutes of the contest opening.

Speculation over Asian unity

Despite the united front presented by the AFC, speculation about a potential Australia-Indonesia plan, possibly including Malaysia and Singapore, suggested that there was no total Asian unity. However, with Indonesia's recent announcement, it appears that Saudi Arabia's bid for the 2034 World Cup is gaining significant momentum.

Saudi Arabia's bid to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup is looking increasingly likely to succeed. With the backing of the AFC and several key members, the kingdom is well-positioned to secure the hosting rights for one of the world's most prestigious sporting events.

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