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The 2030 World Cup to be played in Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay

The 2030 World Cup is to be played on three continents after Morocco, Portugal and Spain won the race to host the 48-team tournament with Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay handed the opening three matches.

The decision, which caught even seasoned Fifa watchers by surprise, means that World Cup 2030 will involve teams playing in six countries, each of which will qualify automatically. The World Cup has never been played on more than one continent before and proposals for a tournament to be played over thousands of miles was met with shock by climate groups.

The decision, and the timing, appeared to pave the way for Saudi Arabia to host the World Cup in 2034 and within hours the kingdom unveiled its bid for that tournament. The Saudis had once been expected to lead a bid alongside Greece and Egypt for 2030, only to stand aside earlier this year. Now, with Fifa inviting bids from Asia and Oceania to host in 2034, the Saudi Football Federation said it intends to bid alone.

The choice and timing seemed to open the door for Saudi Arabia to host the World Cup in 2034, as the country unveiled their proposal for the event hours afterwards. Prior to withdrawing earlier this year, the Saudis were anticipated to lead a bid alongside Greece and Egypt for 2030. The Saudi Football Federation announced it would submit a single candidacy after Fifa invited bids from Asia and Oceania to host in 2034.

At a virtual meeting of its council on Wednesday, Fifa decided to move forward with the ambitious 2030 proposal. In the latter months of next year, a vote including all 211 Fifa members will be required to affirm it. Gianni Infantino, the president of Fifa, called the Morocco, Portugal, and Spain bid “a great message of peace, tolerance, and inclusion,” adding that “in a divided world, Fifa and football are uniting.”

Conmebol, the South American confederation, has not hosted a World Cup since 2014 and was looking to commemorate the centenary of the first World Cup, held in Uruguay in 1930. Fifa is committed to rotating World Cups between confederations and although the Uefa/Caf bid was the favorite for 2030, Conmebol has not hosted a World Cup since 2014. According to Infantino, the opening game of the 2030 World Cup will take place at the same Montevideo stadium where the inaugural World Cup was played.

It is predicted that there will be other bidders for 2034 in addition to Saudi Arabia, including Australia and possibly Indonesia, the fourth-most populous nation in the world. Additionally, China, which has previously set its sights on hosting the World Cup by 2030, might make a pitch. But the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, which is investing billions on football, seems to have the upper hand.

The Saudi Football Federation’s president, Yasser al-Misehal, stated: “We think the time is perfect for Saudi Arabia to host the Fifa World Cup. Our proposal is motivated by our passion for the game and our wish to see it spread throughout the globe.

The bid, according to Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and prime minister Mohammed bin Salman, “reflects the nation’s success in all sectors… Due to its rich cultural legacy, economic power, and aspiration of its people, the kingdom has fast become a leading centre and an international destination for holding big events.

Climate groups, on the other hand, were shocked by the 2030 statement. A Swiss regulatory body found earlier this year that Fifa had deceived supporters by saying the World Cup in Qatar would be carbon-neutral. Freddie Daley of the New Weather Institute, one of the groups sponsoring the challenge, claimed that Fifa was “continuing to prioritise the growth of the game ahead of the climate” by include 2030 plans in its strategic plan. SOURCE: Paul MacInnes, @PaulMacTheGuardian

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