As Graham Arnold named his latest Socceroos squad for World Cup qualifiers against Bangladesh and Palestine, he was asked about Australia’s withdrawal from the bid process to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup.
This week, Football Australia CEO James Johnson admitted FIFA’s bid process “did catch us a little by surprise” after the campaign was abandoned, leaving Saudi Arabia as the only bidder for the tournament.
In a cheeky gag, Arnold hinted it may have come down to one thing.
“I don’t know if I would’ve been around that long,” Arnold said in his press conference on Thursday.
“I think we showed how good we can host events in Australia with the Women’s World Cup.
“FIFA would’ve been looking closely at that, because we did a fantastic job at hosting.
“Of course, it would’ve been a fantastic occasion for the men’s game as well had it occurred, but…
“I think the Saudis might have had a bit more money!”
Football Australia had raised an interest in hosting the 2034 iteration of football’s showpiece on the back of hosting a very successful Women’s World Cup this year, where the Matildas finished fourth.
However, they eventually pulled out of the process as the strength of the Saudi bid became clear.
“We felt that if we put an EOI in for the 2034 men’s World Cup, it may mean that we couldn’t allocate the right time and resources to the [bids for the] 2026 Women’s Asian Cup and the 2029 Club World Cup, so we didn’t go for it,” Johnson said.
“We felt that the Saudi bid was strong and when [they have] got the backing of our confederation, the numbers are stacked against us.”
Instead, FA have turned their attention to bidding for the 2026 Asian Cup, which Johnson believes could well be headed down under.
“There’s been no promises made, but I think there is some goodwill that’s been given throughout world football around our choice around 2034, and I hope together with the best bid on merit that we’re able to win the 2026 Women’s Asian Cup.”