GENEVA (AP) — Giving up its position as clear favorite, Turkey has dropped its bid to host the 2020 European Championship final and semifinals, hoping to instead host Euro 2024 alone.
Turkey's football federation announced its decision ahead of Friday's bidding deadline despite Istanbul being the front-runner for the marquee matches with support already pledged by UEFA President Michel Platini.
"We believe ... we are at a point where we can undertake the entire tournament, not just the semifinals and final," the TFF said in a statement. The strategic move makes England and Germany favored to receive the prestige package of final and semifinals for the 24-nation 2020 tournament. England has proposed Wembley Stadium in London and Germany has offered the Allianz Arena in Munich.
UEFA will choose 13 host cities across Europe for Euro 2020 at a Sept. 19 meeting of its executive committee. Twelve winning bidders will each host three group-stage matches and a single knockout match from the last-16 or quarterfinals rounds.
At least 20 UEFA member countries are expected to meet Friday's deadline, including previous Euro hosts Italy and the Netherlands, plus newcomers Azerbaijan and Romania. A total of 32 countries expressed interest last September when Turkey was already a clear favorite for the final. It was expected to propose staging the game at the 80,000-capacity Ataturk Olympic Stadium, which hosted the Liverpool vs. AC Milan Champions League final in 2005.
Platini has publicly supported Turkey's claim since his native France won a close race between the countries in May 2010 to host Euro 2016. Turkey seemed sure to host Euro 2020 alone but the campaign was complicated by Istanbul's insistence on bidding for the 2020 Olympics, scheduled weeks later.
After UEFA and Platini sought a firm commitment for its tournament, Turkey's political and sporting leaders proceeded in the Olympics contest won by Tokyo last year. Speaking days after the IOC vote last September, TFF general secretary Emre Alkin told The Associated Press: "After losing the Olympic Games we can only, how can I say, bear to have a (Euro 2020) final package."
Turkey automatically becomes the favorite to host Euro 2024, which would be a fourth attempt to host the tournament. It was also a candidate for Euro 2012 and jointly with Greece four years earlier. One of Turkey's probable future opponents — England or Germany — is likely to step aside if either gets the prestige matches in 2020.
Also Friday, France and Switzerland withdrew from the Euro 2020 bidding, saying it was too soon to repeat as host nations. Switzerland shared Euro 2008 with neighboring Austria. Euro 2012 co-host Poland backed out this week, following the Czech Republic, Croatia, Finland and Portugal.
UEFA will confirm the Euro 2020 candidates on Saturday. Russia is on the list, even though it also hosts the 2018 World Cup. It has proposed the stadium in St. Petersburg being built for the FIFA tournament.
Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report