Russia bids to host 2018 or 2022 World Cup

MOSCOW - Russia is joining the race to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022, a senior official in the Russian Football Association (RFU) said on Friday.

"Yesterday we sent an official letter to FIFA informing them of our intentions to bid for the World Cup in 2018 or 2022," RFU general director Alexei Sorokin told Reuters.

Last week, FIFA president Sepp Blatter urged the Russians to enter the fray. "I definitely expect Russia to be a candidate," he told RFU chief Vitaly Mutko during his visit to Moscow.

Sorokin said his country had pinned its hopes on the 2018 tournament. "We feel that in 2018 the World Cup would be awarded to Europe," he said, naming England and a joint bid from Spain and Portugal as Russia's main competition.

FIFA has set a February 2 deadline for potential bidders to formally express their interest. The successful bids will be announced in December 2010.

Spain and Portugal formalised their plan to bid together earlier this week, while Netherlands and Belgium also have a joint proposal. Other interested nations include England, the United States, China and Mexico.