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Wednesday, January 21, 1998 Published at 22:47 GMT

Sport: Football

'Friendly smiles' for England 2006 bid
image: [ Officials cautious about Arsenal's proposed move to Wembley ]
Officials cautious about Arsenal's proposed move to Wembley

Football Association officials believe England are now "the team to beat" as the campaign intensifies to host the 2006 World Cup.

One year on since it was launched at 10 Downing Street, England say they are emerging as the new front-runners.

Germany's rival bid received a recent setback when former captain and coach Franz Beckenbauer suggested that his federation could co-host the finals with England.

As yet only England and Germany have confirmed their candidature to world governing body FIFA, although bids are also expected from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and Peru.

England's 15-strong campaign team lobbied hard at the recent World Cup draw in Marseille and the Confederations Cup in Saudi Arabia.

Alec McGivan says nothing must stand in the way of the World Cup bid (0'-20")
Alec McGivan, the Director of the 2006 Campaign, said: "People are beginning to become more receptive to our bid. It's fair to say there was some antagonism 12 months ago but that's now been replaced by friendly smiles.

But he was cautious when asked about the idea of Arsenal moving from Highbury to Wembley, stressing that nothing could be allowed to jeopardise the bid.

"There are lots of twists and turns to these types of stories. I am coming at it from the point of view of what is going to be best for English football and clearly the creation of a national stadium and bringing the World Cup here is an essential part of the FA's plan for the future."

"We have answered all the questions needed in our proposal. We have the total support of the government as well as the whole UK sporting community. Our bid was in place first, our stadiums are ready and the game in this country is thriving. We are the front-runners and the team to beat."

McGivan has also stressed his opposition to England and Germany sharing the finals as Japan and Korea will do 2002. "It's highly unlikely but if FIFA want to discuss it of course we will be involved."


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