South Korea’s president has reportedly authorized the country’s sports minister to try and secure hosting rights for next year’s Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup following China’s withdrawal from staging the national teams soccer tournament.

Last week, regional governing body the AFC invited bids to stage the 2023 Asian Cup in June and July, with potential hosts given until June 30 to submit their interest to replace China.

China was named as the host nation of the 2023 Asian Cup in 2019 and was due to stage the 24-team competition across 10 cities but pulled out of hosting the event last month (May) due to difficulties with staging events amid the country’s zero-Covid policy.

According to news agency Reuters, South Korea’s newly elected president Yoon Suk-Yeol directed his sports minister Hwang Hee to secure the event after a dinner meeting with players and officials ahead of the country’s friendly against Brazil on Thursday (June 2).

The country’s bid was proposed by Korean Football Association president Chung Mong-Gyu and former national team player Lee Young-Pyo. The country has not staged the competition since 1960 when it won the finals.

President Yoon took office in Korea last month after winning the country’s election in March. 

Defending Asian Cup champions Qatar are reportedly favorites to win hosting rights to the competition on the back of staging the 2022 Fifa World Cup later this year in November and December.

Saudi Arabia has also been touted as a possible alternative, having bid for the 2027 Asian Cup along with Qatar, India, and Iran.

Last month (May) the Japan Football Association said the AFC had informally approached it about replacing China as hosts.