If they say a week’s a long time in politics then it’s surely an eternity when it comes to the machinations involved in landing a coveted World Cup in soccer.
Thursday December 2 is indeed D-Day in the international soccer world.
Governing body FIFA will announce in Zurich which nations will be given the honor of hosting the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. NewsFeed has been scratching its head all week trying to figure out which way the votes will go and provides a runners and riders guide below.
Russia: 6/5 favorite
In recent days, Russia’s sure-fire status as the runaway favorite has begun to wane. Though considered the preferred choice of FIFA President Sepp Blatter — “You cannot deny Russia if they bid for something,” he’s said — as well as being a part of the world never to have hosted the greatest show on Earth (a.k.a. untapped commercial potential for FIFA), something might be rotten in the state of Denmark (or in this case, Switzerland). Prime Minister Vladimir Putin surprisingly confirmed Wednesday that he wouldn’t be part of Russia’s bid team in Zurich. “I think it would be best not to go out of respect for the members of the FIFA executive committee, so that they can make their decision in peace and without any outside pressure.” Putin has also hinted that Russia has faced “unscrupulous competition” which might be a reference to alleged voting patterns or that’s he had the tip-off that Russia won’t be winning in which case he won’t want to be associated with failure.
No such concerns when it comes to England providing some serious fire power (you could argue its bid team is more potent than the actual players) as Prime Minister David Cameron is spending the best part of three days schmoozing the voting committee along with King-to-be Prince William and David Beckham. Not for nothing have they been dubbed the “three lions.” The home of soccer hasn’t hosted a World Cup since 1966 (Spoiler alert! It’s the only Cup they’ve won!) and there can be no question that the country is home to arguably the most passionate supporters and best stadia among the 2018 candidates. The huge question mark is whether the British media’s thorough investigating of alleged bribes within FIFA will result in the voters — some of whom are directly implicated — gaining a measure of revenge by not awarding England the hosting honors it so desperately craves. And research in the past week from YouGov reveals that just under a quarter of the English public think that England will win. But if David Beckham believes that, “We can trust every one of the members,” who is NewsFeed to argue?
Spain/Portugal: 6/1 and Belgium/Netherlands: 40/1
President Blatter is not a fan of joint bids so, despite promising the greenest World Cup ever, we can pretty much rule out the Belgium/Netherlands effort as it’s not thought to carry much favor with the voters. The Spain/Portugal one is more intriguing as this year’s World Cup winners Spain have as much momentum as anyone right now and Portugal have never hosted the tournament. They should do well when it comes to the South American vote and rumors of a deal with 2022 hopefuls Qatar wouldn’t hurt either. But they may not have quite enough to get through to the final round of voting.
Qatar: 4/6 Favorite
It’s been said that Qatar has played a beautiful political game (though NewsFeed once again stresses that any allegations of ‘vote-trading’ with Spain/Portugal have been denied). The Unique Selling Point is, of course, that the World Cup has never been held in an Arab country and Qatar’s intention to build stadia that can be dismantled and used in countries with poor infrastructure is a vote winner if ever we saw one. But the fact that these same facilities haven’t been built in addition to the searing daytime heat (the FIFA report said it poses “a potential health risk for players, officials, the FIFA family and spectators”) may count against the bid as well as the fact that this tiny country is only the size of Connecticut.
Despite holding the World Cup relatively recently — 1994 — the U.S. continues to show tangible evidence at home that the sport is moving in the right direction. Not only is the MLS a legitimate league, with some terrific foreign imports and stadia ready to roll, but American fans bought up more tickets to the 2010 World Cup than anyone else, save for the South African hosts. But it would be quite the coup to be given a second World Cup in such a short space of time, despite the impressive efforts of former President Bill Clinton to persuade FIFA otherwise.
Australia remains the only continent to have never hosted a World Cup. Its people are undoubted sporting fanatics, the past decade saw an Olympics and Rugby World Cup on its shores and 75% of the stadiums have been built. Going against the Aussies is the brutal time difference in regard to the always lucrative European audience and any awarding of the bid could mean that, from a geographical perspective, China would lose out in 2026 and FIFA is known to want to hold the tournament there sooner rather than later.
Japan: 33/1 and South Korea: 40/1
Though separate bids this time around — they jointly hosted the 2002 World Cup — the Asian nations can be considered extreme long shots due to holding such a recent tournament. Full kudos to the South Koreans, however, for promising to include a North Korean host city. Good luck with that.