Argentina won the World Cup for a third time when they beat France in the 2022 final in Qatar

Saudi Arabia, the only contender to host the 2034 World Cup, has formally launched its bid for the tournament.

The Gulf Kingdom became the sole bidder in October when Australia pulled out of the race hours before Fifa’s deadline for declarations of interest.

A Fifa congress will confirm the hosts later this year.

Saudi Arabian Football Federation (Saff) president Yasser Al Misehal says the bid is only possible because of the country’s “rapid transformation”.

Al Misehal added: “Telling our football story to the world is of massive importance.

“We’ve made unprecedented progress in both the men’s and women’s game and our bid is an open invitation to the world to join us on this exciting journey.”

Despite being the only bidder, Fifa regulations require Saudi Arabia to formally bid for the tournament.

The bid uses the slogan “Growing. Together”, which Saff says captures the bond between the “Kingdom, its people and world football”.

Saudi Arabia has invested around £5bn in sport since 2021, when the country’s Crown Prince made it a key part of his strategy to diversify the economy.

It has hosted several major sporting events, including in football, Formula 1, golf and boxing, while the country’s Public Investment Fund has launched the breakaway LIV Golf series, taken control of four Saudi Pro League clubs and purchased Newcastle United.

However, the Gulf kingdom has been accused using its investment in sport and the hosting of high-profile events to improve its international reputation – a process known as ‘sportswashing’.

It has been criticised for its human rights violations, the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, women’s rights abuses, the criminalisation of homosexuality, the restriction of free speech and the war in Yemen.

The Saudi government says the investment is boosting the economy, opening it up to tourism and inspiring people to be more active.

According to Fifa guidelines, countries bidding to host the event must commit to respect human rights.

Speaking to BBC Sport in December, Saudi Arabia’s sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal said claims of sportswashing against the country are “very shallow”.

“Any country has room for improvement, no-one’s perfect. We acknowledge that and these events help us reform to a better future for everyone,” he said.

It is widely expected that the 2034 tournament will be in winter to avoid the country’s extreme summer temperatures, as with the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

It will also be the first time the expanded 48-team tournament will be hosted by just one country.

Morocco, Portugal and Spain are set to co-host the 2030 World Cup, with the opening three matches taking place in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay.

The 2026 World Cup, the first to feature 48 teams, will take place in the US, Mexico and Canada.