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Argentina fans before their FIFA World Cup match against Cote d'Ivoire in Hamburg, Germany, June 2006.

13 countries that’d make better World Cup hosts than Saudi Arabia

The 2034 FIFA World Cup will be staged in Saudi Arabia after they were confirmed as the only bidding nation for the tournament. Quell your excitement, everyone.

Despite a domestic league where some clubs get lower attendances than West Didsbury & Chorlton, their shocking human rights record, archaic attitudes towards LGBTQ people and lethal summer temperatures, FIFA have smoothed the route for Saudi 2034.

By curtailing the bidding process and menacing Australia from submitting their own bid, world football’s governing body has allowed themselves to be enthusiastically sportswashed. And not for the first time.

The prospect of a 104-match, winter tournament in Saudi Arabia doesn’t exactly whet the appetite, so we’ve identified 13 countries we’d rather see host the World Cup.

Note: Countries that have hosted the World Cup since 1990 were not considered, including the hosts in 2026 (Canada, Mexico and the United States) and the primary hosts in 2030 (Morocco, Portugal and Spain). 

Argentina

Yes, Argentina will host one match at the 2030 finals thanks to FIFA’s hare-brained scheme to clear the way for the Saudis celebrate the 100th anniversary of the World Cup.

But that’s scant reward for one of football’s most prominent nations. We demand an entire tournament in the land of asado, tango and Maradona, where football is followed with such devotion that it makes religion seem almost frivolous by comparison.

Throw in Uruguay, staging the opening match in the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, and we’d be booking plane tickets already.

Australia & New Zealand

After successfully staging the 2023 Women’s World Cup, the next logical step would be for Australia and New Zealand to stage the men’s event.

Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Auckland, Wellington and the rest would make fine host cities. You could even host the thing in June and July, when temperatures will give the tournament a Champions League last-16 aesthetic. It’s almost too sensible for FIFA.

Belgium & Netherlands

Despite professing their commitment to net zero and combating the climate crisis, FIFA doesn’t give a solitary eff about giving elephantine tournaments to states with little footballing heritage or infrastructure.

Neither of those applies to Belgium and the Netherlands, two small countries that love their football. Their bid for the 2018 edition was also the most environmentally friendly in history.

The thought of quaffing mussels in Brussels, chocolate in Liege, beer in Bruges and Rotterdam and cycling to matches in Amsterdam makes the heart sing.

Colombia

Semi-regular participants at the World Cup, Colombia have provided some of the tournament’s most arresting cult heroes (Rene Higuita, Carlos Valderrama, James Rodriguez) and most colourful fans.

A tournament staged in the South American melting pot, including cities like Bogota, Medellin and Cali, would be barmy and balmy. Make it happen.

Egypt

Egyptians love their football, the country is a tourist hotspot and Mohamed Salah would be absolutely everywhere for a month. A no-brainer.

Ghana & Nigeria

Any West African World Cup would be almost the opposite of the diametric opposite of Qatar and Saudi Arabia – unlikely because of financial constraints, but the most spectacular experience.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populated country and its second richest, would have to bear the brunt of any hosting rights, but Ghana has hosted multiple African Cup of Nations and Accra would make a fitting venue for any semi-final.

If only the two rivals could stop squabbling about jollof and create the most romantic bid in World Cup history.

Indonesia

Forget China – Indonesia are Asian football’s biggest underachievers. Their football is not about stadium disasters or corruption but passion, colour and an all-enveloping love of the game.

Despite having not qualified for the World Cup since 1938, the archipelago is arguably the most football-mad country in Asia and the Premier League is consumed hungrily by local supporters.

South East Asia would be an incredible World Cup host, especially if Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines were included in any future bid, and would genuinely break new ground.

India

If FIFA were serious about ‘growing the game’, hosting the World Cup in India would be a significant statement of intent. The nation might be cricket-mad, but football is rapidly gaining popularity.

Their chances of qualifying for the World Cup (they managed to do so in 1950, but withdrew after FIFA banned them from playing barefoot) have increased following the expansion to 48 teams and the sport would be enriched if a more diverse set of Asian teams participated at the finals.

Imagine the scenes in Mumbai, Dehli and Bangalore if the Copa Mundial swung into town. It would be quite something.

Turkey

On condition of Erdogan’s removal from office – no more World Cups should be rewarded to dictatorial loons – Turkey should host the tournament at some point.

With some of the most passionate fans in the world, Turkey already has a plethora of impressive stadiums and Istanbul is one of the globe’s most beguiling cities.

Having recently been awarded joint hosting rights for Euro 2032 with Italy, the infrastructure will be there too. A month of eating proper kebabs and baklava while watching the world’s best footballers strut their stuff? Yes, please.

United Kingdom

The UK has the infrastructure, the stadiums, an obsessive love of football and the perfect summer climate to host the World Cup.

We’d apply the following conditions; stage matches in the East Midlands (possibly Nottingham), Yorkshire (probably Leeds and potentially Sheffield) and have between one and two non-London venues in southern England (Brighton and Bristol are tourist-friendly and perfect for some of the smaller group matches).

Pick Edinburgh as it’s a popular, well-connected travel destination. Don’t pick Milton Keynes. Get Old Trafford up to scratch, but leave Lou Macari’s chip shop untouched. And make sure England play some matches away from Wembley.

It’ll never happen, sadly. But there’s little doubt the UK would stage a fabulous tournament – as we’ll see with Euro 2028.


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