Saudi Arabia to host 2034 World Cup as football world blasts 'absolute joke'

Australia withdrew from the race leaving the world to erupt over the announcement.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino poses with Lionel Messi at the FIFA World Cup.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino (pictured right) is once again under fire after he announced Saudi Arabia will host the FIFA World Cup in 2034. (Getty Images)

The football community has turned on FIFA once again after president Gianni Infantino revealed Saudi Arabia are the sole bidders to host the 2034 World Cup after Australia withdrew from the race. FIFA copped a barrage of criticism for years over their decision to host the 2022 World Cup in Qatar amid the poor human rights record of the nation.

Fans were also infuriated with the Qatar World Cup after it became the first ever edition to host the tournament in winter because of the extreme heat in summer. This forced football leagues around the world to stop midway through the season to accomodate the showpiece event.

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Infantino was forced to continually defend the decision to host the biggest sporting event in the world in Qatar. And in another extraordinary decision, Infantino has taken to social media to claim Saudi Arabia will become the second Middle East nation to host the World Cup in 2034.

Australia were considered one of the major rivals to Saudi Arabia in the race to host the event, but withdrew from the pool on Tuesday to leave Saudi Arabia as the only bidder. "Three editions, five continents and 10 countries involved in staging matches in the tournament - that's making football truly global," FIFA president Infantino wrote on Instagram.

"As we live in an increasingly divided and aggressive world, we show once again that football, the leading global sport, unites like nothing else." Australia said it was instead focused on hosting the Women's Asian Cup in 2026 and the Club World Cup in 2029.

Gianni Infantino hands Lionel Messi the World Cup trophy.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino (pictured left) has announced Saudi Arabia will host the 2034 World Cup. (Photo by Marvin Ibo Guengoer - GES Sportfoto/Getty Images)

The president's announcement that Saudi Arabia are set to be confirmed as the host has caused international uproar. Times Sport chief football writer Henry Winter questioned whether the decision would bring frustration again from major leagues such as the Premier League with the World Cup once again expected to be held in winter.

"Interesting to see whether the Premier League, given new Saudi influence, complains about another winter World Cup damaging domestic season, frustrating club fans and broadcasters. 2034 World Cup going to Saudi Arabia and inevitably staged in Nov/Dec. Gulf brings gap in season," he wrote.

Football fans jumped on social media to blast the decision as a 'joke' after the backlash involving Qatar.

Australia turn focus on Women's Asian Cup 2026

Football Australia chief executive James Johnson said withdrawing before the deadline was a 'strategical' decision amid turning their focus on another tournament, he told Fox Sports on Wednesday. This was because the Saudi Aarabia bid was 'strong' and the team needed to be realistic.

Australia will instead attempt to secure hosting rights for the 2029 Club World Cup and the 2026 Women's Asian Cup, the latter a tournament oil-rich Saudi Arabia has also bid on, and underlined its credentials."We have explored the opportunity to bid to host the FIFA World Cup and - having taken all factors into consideration - we have reached the conclusion not to do so for the 2034 competition," FA said in a statement.

"Instead, we believe we are in a strong position to host the oldest women's international competition in the world, the AFC Women's Asian Cup 2026, and then welcome the greatest teams in world football for the 2029 FIFA Club World Cup. Achieving this - following the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 and with the Brisbane 2032 Olympic Games - would represent a truly golden decade for Australian football.

"For international tournament hosting, the Australian time zones provide significant opportunities for broadcasters, and we are within touching distance of billions of people in Asia and Oceania, which also helps to provide a strong commercial outlook for competitions."

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