Xi to meet Infantino as China harbours World Cup ambition

China’s football-mad President Xi Jinping will meet FIFA chief Gianni Infantino in Beijing on Wednesday as the world’s most populous nation harbours ambitions of hosting the World Cup.

Xi will greet the president of football’s world governing body at the palatial Great Hall of the People.

“We hope we can strengthen our cooperation on football with international organisations, including FIFA, and also with other countries,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular press briefing.

“As to whether China will host the World Cup, this is a dream shared by many Chinese. We also hope we can see that happen as soon as possible,” Lu said.

The meeting follows widespread speculation that China will bid to host the event either in 2030 or 2034.

Xi wants his country to host the global football extravaganza and also hopes China’s national team can one day win the sport’s most prestigious trophy.

But China, who languish at 82nd in FIFA’s world rankings just below Benin and the Faroe Islands, look certain to miss out on qualification for Russia 2018.

China have appeared in just one World Cup, in 2002, where they lost all three group matches and failed to score a goal.

Qatar, who are part of the Asian Football Confederation, are due to host the 2022 World Cup, meaning China will not be eligible to bid for the 2026 tournament because of FIFA’s policy of rotating between host continental governing bodies.

Chinese Football Association vice president Zhang Jian, a member of the FIFA Council which devises its global strategy, said last year he would back a Chinese World Cup in 2030.

Three major Chinese companies have signed sponsorship deals with FIFA in the space of a year, fuelling speculation that China is preparing a World Cup bid.

But the Asian giant already faces stiff competition from Europe’s football governing body UEFA, which is eyeing the 2030 tournament.

This would leave 2034 as the next hope for Beijing. Punch

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