Gillard oils wheels of World Cup

BRUSSELS - Troops first. Fifa second. World leaders third.

If football's global governing body had any question marks left about the precision of Australia's 2022 World Cup bid, Prime Minister Julia Gillard extinguished them yesterday.

In her first overseas trip as PM, Gillard squeezed in a catch-up with Fifa president Sepp Blatter in Zurich between visiting Australian soldiers in Afghanistan and her maiden appearance with world leaders at the Asia-Europe meeting in Brussels starting today.

It was a highly symbolic move yesterday and one that could potentially pay huge dividends when the host of the 2022 competition is named on December 2 in Switzerland.

Australia's major rivals for the 2022 tournament are largely considered to be the United States and Qatar with the latter coming in for criticism by Fifa's six-man inspection team last month for their bid posing "logistical challenges".

Gillard is renowned for her negotiating skills, having recently formed alliances with Greens and Independent MPs to cling on to power.

And schmoozing is such an important part of winning landmark events.

The federal Labor Government has pumped A$45 million ($56.6 million) into the campaign and Gillard's courting of Blatter two months out from the voting reinforced that commitment.

- AAP

- NZ Herald

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