London:England's bid to host the World Cup in 2018 has been boosted by Brazil's president offering his support ahead of a crucial week of campaigning.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose country will stage the 2014 World Cup, believes England deserves to stage the tournament again after having not staged football's biggest event since 1966.
"Now is the time for the UK to host a FIFA cup again," Silva said Sunday on Britain's Channel Four News. "England will always have the competence and will always be a country that will have a great force, great strength to win bid for the FIFA cup."
The endorsement came a day after FIFA vice president Jack Warner performed a U-turn by backing England.
The bidding nations will be pushing their cases in South Africa next week ahead of the World Cup draw on Friday _ and a year before the vote by FIFA's 24-man executive committee.
England's campaign, which has been rocked by weeks of internal infighting, will be relying on David Beckham's star quality in Cape Town to woo voters next week.
David Triesman, chairman of England's Football Association and the bid board, said Silva's support is "really important."
"He's been a huge a fan, a huge advocate of English football _ he loves it," Triesman said. "When he made his state visit he made a joke that we might have introduced Brazil to football and taught them how to do it, but they'd become the teachers and we'd become the pupils."
While England's resources are focused on staging the 2018 tournament, it is also entered in the 2022 race. FIFA will vote on both hosts in December 2010.
England's bid chairman, David Triesman, says the Brazilian president's backing is "really important."
The other contenders are Russia, United States, Australia, Japan and joint bids from Netherlands-Belgium and Spain-Portugal.