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Dec, 2, 2009

Hollywood star backs Australia World Cup bid

Australia's bid to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup has been boosted by the support of a Hollywood star and a Nobel Peace Prize winner in the lead-up to Friday's draw for the 2010 event in South Africa.

Nicole Kidman is the face of Australia's new bid video, which Football Federation Australia officials are showing to FIFA powerbrokers while world football's glitterati are gathered in Cape Town for the highly-anticipated World Cup draw.

Australian actress Kidman, who is one of the nation's most recognisable global exports, invites FIFA's decision-makers to "Come Play" in Australia, along the lines of the bid's official tagline.

The FFA's influential billionaire chairman, Frank Lowy, has also enlisted the support of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who played a key role in getting the World Cup to South Africa. Lowy and FFA chief executive Ben Buckley visited Tygerberg Children's Hospital in Cape Town - of which Tutu is a patron - where Lowy presented a cheque to support the hospital.

Tutu said he would support Australia's bid because he saw similarities between it and that of South Africa in that neither region had hosted a World Cup before.

"It should spread around the world. It is coming to Africa for the first time, and I believe for that part of the world, it would also be a first time," Tutu said.

With the World Cup draw being one of a handful of occasions FIFA's all-important executive committee gathers together before its decisions on the locations of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments next December, the bidding nations are targetting this week as a key opportunity to make an impression.

England's FA have brought David Beckham to Cape Town at a great expense, seeking to leverage football's most marketable commodity in their favour. Bidding nations are expected to front global media ahead of the draw on Friday.

Meanwhile, Australia's on-field hopes in South Africa have received a boost from an unlikely source, with Chelsea and Ivory Coast superstar Didier Drogba claiming he would like to avoid the Socceroos in next year's tournament.

Drogba told Australia's Fox Sports FC: "They're a tough team, they're a very difficult team to play against. They are very strong and very physical. No, I won't be happy if we have Australia in our group."

If FIFA's seeded pots fall as expected, African and Asian teams will be separated, meaning Ivory Coast and Australia could potentially meet. The sides would have a one-in-eight chance of being grouped together.

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