KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS —- Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay have confirmed formally their proposed joint bid to host a centenary World Cup finals in 2030, exactly 100 years after the inaugural tournament in Uruguay.
The three countries’ presidents announced the plan in Buenos Aires on Wednesday although world federation FIFA will not open bidding for several years with a decision on the preceding finals, in 2026, not due until next year at the earliest.
A cohosting bid from the United States, Mexico and Canada is favourite to win rights to 2026 with Morocco the only candidate and rank outsider for the first finals to feature an expanded 48-team field.
Uruguay & Co can expect to face competition for 2030 from Europe, if the words of UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin back in June are to be believed.
Formal confirmation from the CONMEBOL trio had been delayed until this week after FIFA supremo Gianni Infantino expressed a wish to be present at the series of meetings in Buenos Aires which culminated in a reception at the Casa Rosada by state President Mauricio Macri.
Also in attendance were the state presidents of Uruguay and Paraguay, Tabare Vazquez and Horacio Cartes.
Afterwards Cartes said: “The first planning meeting will be organised in the first week of November. Other countries are going to want to play host but there is a strong argument in favour of Uruguay because of the date of the centenary.”
Macri said: “This part of the world deserves to organise a World Cup, a passion shared by Uruguayans, Paraguayans and Argentinians — in addition to taking advantage of this to continue consolidating the ties between our thre countries. We will be great hosts.”
Argentina would expect to stage the majority of the matches in six or eight stadia with two or three venues each in Paraguay and Uruguay. The final would be staged, as in 1930, in the historic Centenario in Uruguayan capital Montevideo.
Infantino noted the management problems which have split the Argentinian federation in recent years but recognised the country’s “strength, passion and heart to start working again, seriously, for the development of its football.”
The inaugural finals in Uruguay in 1930 featured only 13 nations and no need for a qualifying tournament. However the subsequent expansion of the finals place host duties far beyond the logistical reach of the small nation on the north bank of the River Plate.
Until the 48-team expansion was decided by world federation FIFA earlier this year Uruguay had hoped to raise a joint bid with Argentina, their opponents in the first final 87 years ago. However Infantino’s preference for 48 teams made it inevitable that a third partner would be needed.
Hence the late addition of Paraguay which is centrally placed in South America, bordering both Argentina and 2014 host Brazil and comparatively close to the northern fringe of Uruguay.
Paraguay’s Asuncion is home to the headquarters of the South American confederation.
CONMEBOL’s current president, Alejandro Dominguez, is trying to clean up the body’s image many senior directors – and three of his presidential predecessors – were indicted by the United States Justice Department over the FIFAGate corruption scandal.
One problem for the trio will be persuading FIFA’s 200-plus members to turn down what promises to be a financially-significant bid from the Chinese whose Wanda, Hisense and Vivo corporations have already been welcomed by FIFA as World Cup partners and/or sponsors.
Further, South America will need to build significant voting alliances to carry the day in FIFA Congress because CONMEBOL has only 10 members. Asia will be duty-bound to support China so everything will depend on Africa and Europe, with more than half of the congress votes between them.
All three South American nations are likely to face noisy internal opposition from critics who will believe – as did many in Brazil ahead of the 2014 finals – that the essential multi-million investment could be better directed at social welfare.
Jose Luis Chilavert, Paraguay’s high-profile former goalkeeper-captain, has already voiced his disapproval. In August, when Paraguay’s inclusion in the plan was announced, he said: “Paraguay does not need a World Cup but hospital, schools, infrastructure.”