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By ESPN Staff

Europe set to get every third World Cup finals

LONDON, Nov 2 (Reuters) - UEFA president Lennart Johansson said on Thursday that every third World Cup finals tournament should be staged in Europe - with England confirming an interest in hosting the 2018 finals.

Johansson, launching his manifesto at the start of his campaign to be re-elected UEFA president for a fifth and final term of office, said there was 'very great interest' in the idea of the World Cup returning to Europe every 12 years.

'I spoke with the Chancellor Gordon Brown and he is very keen on the idea of it coming back to England,' Johansson told a media briefing in London.

The idea of every third World Cup tournament returning to Europe has not been publicly aired before, but Johansson added: 'After Germany this year, it is going to South Africa in 2010 and then to South America in 2014.

'The next time it might be back in Europe would be 2018. England have not had the World Cup since 1966 and I know there is a great deal of interest to support such a project.'

Australia has also expressed an interest in staging the 2018 finals. No decision will be taken until 2012 - the year London hosts the Olympic Games.

Earlier on Thursday, British sports minister Richard Caborn told BBC Radio Four that the Government would be willing to back a bid for the finals.

'Absolutely, I have no doubt,' he said. 'We would be in very serious contention, plus if we have a good 2012 Olympics it will put us in the premier division of countries for running sports events.

'Also the World Cup would take place over the country, bringing Scotland and Wales into play as well.'

Brian Barwick, the chairman of the English FA added: 'If that is the year it is going to come back to Europe, we're going to go for it.'