FIFA delighted with 11 potential World Cup bids

BERNE - FIFA has received a "remarkable" 11 potential bids to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups following the withdrawal of a possible offer from Egypt, world soccer's ruling body said on Tuesday.

Following the passing of the February 2 deadline, FIFA said it had received formal expressions of interest from Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands, England, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Qatar, Russia, Spain and Portugal, and the United States.

"It is remarkable that so many high-quality contenders have expressed an initial interest in hosting our flagship competition," FIFA President Sepp Blatter said in a statement.

"The current worldwide economic crisis has brought another dimension of uncertainty into the lives of many people around the world.

"Football has an extraordinary power to unite people, as well as an ability to inspire emotions of hope, passion and joy."

FIFA said on Monday that Egypt had also expressed interest in bidding for the 2022 World Cup but the sole African candidate was missing from Tuesday's final list.

Samir Zaher, president of the Egyptian FA (EFA), told Reuters that the association had never been interested in bidding, but FIFA insisted that it had.

"We received two official correspondences, both definitely from the Egyptian FA," a FIFA spokesman said. "The first was an expression of interest, the second said they were not interested."

FIFA has yet to finalise the exact bidding process which will involve for the first time a simultaneous contest for two World Cup finals.

FIFA's ethics committee will be involved in the proceedings with the ruling body keen to ensure that fair play prevails.

The next stage of the process will be to send out registration forms on February 16 to the 11 candidates.