Blatter reassures Holland/Belgium bid

BRUSSELS - FIFA president Sepp Blatter reassured Belgium and the Netherlands on Monday that their joint World Cup bid was valid despite his preference for single-nation bids, but declined to give such backing to Spain and Portugal. Japan and South Korea jointly hosted the 2002 World Cup but Blatter said FIFA did not want to repeat what he said had effectively resulted - two World Cups, with two organising committees, two languages, two currencies and double the cost. "This is totally different," Blatter said of the Belgian-Dutch bid during a visit to meet the organising committee in Brussels. "A candidature of the Netherlands and Belgium should be accepted as we have evidence that there is one organising committee... If they talk of Luxembourg too, it is Benelux which is a political entity," he continued. Blatter, who also visited Belgian King Albert and received a chocolate football from the prime minister, described the bid from the two "important" countries as "appealing." The pair have already jointly hosted the European Championships in 2000. The FIFA president was less forthcoming on the joint Spain/Portugal bid. "I don't have the details," he replied when asked whether that bid would also be considered an exception. Spain's football federation has insisted it will proceed with a joint bid despite media speculation that it plans to go solo. Australia, England, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia and the United States have bid to host the tournament in 2018 or 2022, along with the two joint Belgium/Netherlands and Spain/Portugal proposals. Qatar and South Korea have sent in bid registration forms for the 2022 World Cup only. All submitted initial bids in March. Full bids are due by March 2010, a decision on the hosts for both tournaments being made in December. With Brazil hosting the 2014 finals, FIFA had already said that South American nations could not bid for 2018 or 2022. Countries from the same continental confederation will not be able to host both tournaments. Blatter said the procedure would involve a vote first on 2018 and then 2022, for which some countries could then be excluded. Franz Beckenbauer, the former World Cup-winning captain and coach with West Germany who is also one of 24 member of FIFA's Executive Committee, said earlier this month he believed it should be Europe's turn in 2018, with Australia a strong candidate for 2022.