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Home » Sport » Football

Why England should win the World Cup

We are just hours away from the vote to decide which nations will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Unless, of course, you are reading this after 15:00, in which case, FIFA's sage/foolish/bent Executive Committee have sanctioned/dismissed/stomped on England's bid to hold the tournament for a second time.

At 14:00 today in at FIFA HQ in Zurich, the 22-men team will adjourn to the meeting room - which seems, without irony, to be based on the War Room in Dr Strangelove - and they will cast their votes.

Once Russia's presentation ends at 11:30, a two-and-a-half-hour window of frantic final meet-and-greets, pitches, pleas and brazen kowtowing will be open before the ballot.

So just who are these wily, continental Fancy Dans who think they can rob the English of their right to stage football's big jamboree in 2018? Early Doors asked Eurosport journalists from the other bidding nations to each state their case, followed by ED's verdict.

RUSSIA 

"FIFA should choose Russia because of great government support of our application. The Government controls everything in our country, so we can do all that FIFA asks. It promises to introduce visa-free entry and duty-free importation of football souvenirs and other products. We are going to build the best stadiums, the best infrastructure. It will be very good in terms of development 
of football around the world. Do not forget that World Cup finals haven't been held in Eastern Europe yet." 

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's decision not to travel to Switzerland could be a tactical masterstroke or a huge blunder. Putin's protest, remember, is not against FIFA corruption, but against the British media's investigations into it, the pesky agitators. The former KGB man's moral compass may be skewed, but it is a play that may sit well with the FIFA's irked delegates. There is no denying that Russia, which is nowhere near as tourist friendly as any of its rivals, is very, very big, and transport and hotel shortages seem inevitable. Previously the bookies' favourite, it may take Putin riding into FIFA HQ on the back of a Russian bear to save their bid now.

SPAIN/PORTUGAL

"Iberia will take it for sure: Five-star stadiums already built, the best communications network between the countries among all the challengers especially with high speed trains which join almost all the stadiums and no need to spend significant money to make the dream come true. Two countries involved in harmony and two countries with such amazing national teams and 
football players. In addition, the Spanish football federation president has 
been involved in many UEFA and FIFA committees over the last 25 years and has a huge 
background and expertise of this kind of election and, finally, huge support in the countries from the governments and population."

With Putin's bizarre snub putting great uncertainty on to the Russian campaign, the Iberian bid may now be England's biggest rivals. England's claim that its inhabitants love the game more than anyone else will be fiercely contested, especially as the vote come just three days after The Biggest Match In Club Football. However, the recent friendly between Spain and Portugal at Lisbon's Estadio da Luz drew a paltry crowd of just 20,000, whereas England's recent home game against France at Wembley was a sell-out. If star quality does turn out to be as big an issue as it appears, then Cristiano Ronaldo's absence through injury could be a blow. The stadia and infrastructure are already largely in place, and both nations have previously held major tournaments, but the economic crisis looming over the peninsula could play on the committee's avaricious minds.  

NETHERLANDS/BELGIUM

"The organisers of the Dutch/Belgian bid say that the 2018 World Cup will be a festival for fans and players, and I totally agree. And if the Executive Committee decides to choose Holland and Belgium, I think that it really will be a party and also a perfectly organised World Cup. Holland and Belgium have  never organised a World Cup before but I think that these two small countries will do a great job. The Holland/Belgium bid is, as far as I can see, without controversy. That is why I think that they really have a chance, even though the bookmakers don't agree with that. Maybe I should place a bet." 

Few would question the Low Countries' ability to stage the finals - Euro 2000 was one of the best tournaments of recent years, but the bid has been hit by a couple of political snags. Firstly, the original Benelux bid had to be restructured after Luxembourg pulled out because the principality felt it was being marginalised in the plans. And, more recently, Holland and Belgium have taken issue with FIFA's demands over special immigration, tax and merchandising laws. The liberal nations should be admired for taking a stance against legislation that saw incidents in South Africa such as the Bavaria beer girls being a Cape Town restaurant owner being threatened with jail for painting a football and the number '2010' on the window of his business, but it could prove costly.

ENGLAND

So, what of England's bid? The team like to think they have learnt lessons from the unsuccessful 2006 bid, won by Germany, which was seen as too complacent. The nation's status as the inventors and pioneers of the modern game has been more subtly implied rather than howled from the rooftops this time. There has been none of the wheeling out of the heroes of 1966 either, indicating England's desire to look to the future instead of back to the past.

As mentioned before, if star quality is a major factor, then surely the presence of the Prime Minister, the future king and David Beckham is as big as it gets. The stadiums are on display to the world on a weekly basis, and the country is small enough to limit the damage of any transport problems that may arise. Thankfully, it won't be snowing in June 2018, so flights and trains should work fine. That's 'should'.

From ED's selfish, Anglo-centric standpoint, two of England's best three performances at major tournaments have come on home soil, and it is clear that fans of the Three Lions travel in support of their team across the globe in greater number than any other nation.

Of course, there is the big red-and-white elephant in the room that is the Sunday Times and Panorama investigations into a handful of FIFA's Executive Committee. In their rush to embrace the cash cow, the bid has distanced itself from the reports, but it is up to FIFA to decide how they will react to them. To deny England its reward for a very strong bid because its free press is doing its job properly would be a further indication of the governing bodies' unwillingness to root out any such problems at the heart of the organisation.

None of the allegations in any investigation have been levelled at FIFA president Sepp Blatter, save for his failure to run a tight ship. This is just as well, because, in the event of a tie in the final round of voting, his vote will count double.

Does FIFA's big Swiss cheese have the guts to opt for what, on paper, looks to be the best option? We will soon find out.

- - -

Oddly enough, considering their vote will come second this afternoon, the 2022 presentations came yesterday, and the 2018 bidders were privy to the potential pitfalls involved in making what is effectively a tender for a £5 billion-plus contract.

The USA opened with their big hitters. Morgan Freeman stepped up to add some Hollywood gravitas to proceedings, and fluffed his lines. That's right - Morgan Freeman, the Osar-winning actor who has played God, the US President and Nelson Mandela on screen, got his script muddled.

Elle McPherson fared little better in Australia's opening turn, putting in an uncertain performance before introducing a film featuring a cartoon kangaroo stealing the World Cup trophy and being chased God's Own Country be a shadowy figure on a motorbike which turned out to be Paul Hogan. It was a pitch that said: "Give it to Aussie? Why the bloody hell not, eh?!"

South Korea's presentation was surprisingly downbeat, with a pragmatic demonstration of transport capabilities and hotel coming alongside several references to the current crisis with the agitating dictatorship next door.

Packed stadiums across the world watching 3D holographic projections of matches was at the heart of Japan's bid, which included Sony's Welsh-born CEO showing off a handheld instant translation device. All very flash, but couldn't this technology benefit humanity as a whole more than just in order to bolster the 'next generation' of World Cup?

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was Qatar's package. The Middle Eastern kingdom shied away from the 'We are rich, and we'll make you rich too', instead highlighting the worthy claim that the region is the last remaining not to have staged a World Cup. Also featured was its location, optimising the potential daytime broadcast reach cross the world, as well as the region's status as a transport hub for global travellers. A young Iraqi gave a speech about how the tournament could help unify the region, and the slick presentation gave assurances about climate-controlled arenas. It may not be enough to tempt FIFA into awarding the tournament to a sparsely-populated desert nation this time around, but it has helped boost the credibility of the Middle East for next time a bid is launched.

And besides, if they can't decide on any of those, FIFA could always just give it to Mexico again. Who would argue with that?

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "What happened takes us back to the dark ages but I don't think that will affect the World Cup bid. I'm sure that has already been decided and let's hope England get it because they deserve it." - Birmingham manager Alex McLeish slams violence that followed the Blues' win over local rivals Aston Villa in the Carling Cup last night. Let's hope the FIFA bigwigs were too busy with the fondue and canapes to notice.

FOREIGN VIEW: "Mr Cantona is no stranger to controversy. He is a great 
footballer, but I'm not sure we need to pay heed to all his suggestions. Each to 
their own. There are those who play football magnificently, and I would not dare to 
try. I think it's best for everyone to stick to their own speciality." - France's economy minister Christine Lagarde tells Eric Cantona to stick to football not finance after the former Manchester United captain called for a nationwide run on banks to punish them for their role in the financial crisis.

 

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