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Prem Forecaster: The relegation race

Premier League
By ESPN Staff

Belgium-Netherlands bid first for 2018 World Cup

MADRID, Spain -- The joint bid by Belgium and the Netherlands was the first accepted for the 2018 World Cup.

"We have one official candidature, that of Netherlands-Belgium, the papers are already at FIFA [headquarters]," FIFA president Sepp Blatter said on Sunday.

The 2018 host will be selected at an executive committee meeting in 2011 with the United States, Mexico, Japan, China, Russia, Spain-Portugal, England and Australia all interested according to Blatter.

The news came after Blatter reiterated that South America and Africa have no chance of hosting the 2018 World Cup.

"Of all five continents available to present, South America and Africa will not be allowed to," Blatter said. "If we hadn't taken the decision to have a rotation policy in the first place, Africa would never had had the chance to host the World Cup, neither would South America."

FIFA's executive committee scrapped the rotation policy in October after it led to South Africa being picked to host the 2010 event and Brazil for 2014.

Blatter, who was in the Spanish capital to pay tribute to Real Madrid great Alfredo Di Stefano, also said it wasn't likely that a soccer ball with a computer chip would be in use by then either.

"We did a study and over the past 40 years there have been 42 cases. [The chip] is complicated and expensive ... is it really worth changing things for what turns out to be one case per year?" Blatter said. "The game will lose its fun and no longer be a talking point among fans."

Though Hawk-Eye technology -- as used in professional tennis -- is also being discussed, Blatter said the game moved too quickly for that.

Instead, Blatter said refereeing should be improved, especially following match-fixing scandals in Germany, Italy and Brazil in recent years.

The Women's Under-20 World Cup in Chile in November will take the first steps in testing whether two added assistants -- with the purpose of monitoring the penalty area and offsides -- can help so that the sport doesn't have to rely on goal-line technology, Blatter said.

"FIFA's rules are practically perfect," he said. "What is the problem with football today? It is not the rules, it is the refereeing."