Spain, Portugal say Morocco inclusion boosts World Cup bid
The heads of Spain and Portugal welcomed Morocco's move to join their bid to host the 2030 World Cup, saying Wednesday it boosted their chances of hosting the event.
Morocco's King Mohammed VI announced on Tuesday that his country had joined the bid by the two European countries, apparently replacing war-torn Ukraine in a three-way alliance.
Spain and Portugal declared their joint candidacy in 2021, before adding Ukraine to their bid last October.
In contrast to the distance between Ukraine, and Spain and Portugal, Morocco is separated from the Iberian Peninsula only by the Strait of Gibraltar.
"I think this bid by the Iberian Peninsula with Morocco is very positive," Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa told a joint news conference with his Spanish counterpart Pedro Sanchez on the Spanish island of Lanzarote.
"It sends an important message to the entire world and especially Europe and Africa, since it says that we are two neighbouring continents, two continents that want to work together," he added.
"It is the first time that a joint bid is presented from both sides of the Mediterranean, a bid between Africa and Europe. I think this can only help to unite that which can't be separated."
Sanchez, meanwhile, said Morocco joining the bid "places Spain and Portugal's joint candidacy in better shape to win the race."
Neither Sanchez nor Costa mentioned Ukraine during the press conference.
But Spanish media have reported that the arrest in November of the head of the Ukrainian football federation over fraud allegations had left Ukraine out of the running.
The reports also said that with Russia's invasion of Ukraine still ongoing, there was little likelihood that the country would be ready to host World Cup matches in seven year's time.
Football world governing body FIFA is expected to announce the 2030 World Cup hosts in 2024.
A South American bid including Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Chile is set to challenge the Iberian bid, and Saudi Arabia hopes to lead a joint ticket with Egypt and Greece.
The World Cup has had joint hosts before.
In 2002 Japan and South Korea shared the competition.
In 2026, the finals will be played in the United States, Mexico and Canada, when 11 of the 16 planned venues will be in the US.
The first World Cup, in 1930, was hosted and won by Uruguay.