Which Countries Are In Pole Position To Host World Cup 2018 & 2022?

We separate the confident camps from the floundering factions
By Amar Singh in Zurich

On Thursday, 22 Fifa executive committee members will vote and ultimately decide which nations will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

After months of lobbying, photo opportunities, t-shirt wearing and schmoozing, we will find out today where these two lucrative tournaments will be held.

Here's how each camp is looking ahead of this historic day in football history.

The contenders for 2018


Gathering momentum at what could be a perfect time. If "all the fish are not sold" - as Iberian bid chief Miguel Angel López would have you believe - England are certainly first in the queue at the market.

David Cameron, David Beckham and Prince William have led a charm offensive meeting with, amongst others, Fifa vice-presidents Jack Warner and Issa Hayatou - and all are feeling bullish about their chances.

Joined by the formidable schmoozer and London 2012 Olympics chief Lord Coe in addition to jovial London Mayor Boris Johnson on Wednesday, team England has gone into lobbying overdrive, and the bid is dominating the world's media for all the right reasons.

But the bid doesn't go to the nation that gets the most publicity and England will hope that their work behind-the-scenes will prove as effective as their media profile this week.

High point: Local reporters and delegates gush as David Beckham plays football with a group of teenagers demonstrating exactly what the 'England United' legacy plan would offer.

Low point: A BBC Panorama documentary airs on the Monday night before the vote and makes fresh corruption allegations against three Fifa members.

Odds to host 2018 World Cup: 11/10


The clear favourite going into this week but there is no doubt they have been out-dazzled by England's star-studded ambassadors.

The Russian bid was also dealt a blow when Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced he wouldn't be attending Thursday's ceremony with a not-so thinly-veiled dig at the 'unscrupulous' actions of the British media.

But many have taken it as a sign that Putin has chosen to steer clear of Zurich to avoid being in town as he believes the bid is floundering.

One experienced commentator said of Putin's missive: "It's either the last wail of a drowning man or an act of genius." We will find out on Thursday afternoon.

High point: There hasn't been one this week - hopefully Andrey Arshavin can liven up proceedings on Wednesday.

Low point: Putin announces that he's not flying in. It only serves to make David Cameron look the more committed of the two leaders.

Odds to host 2018 World Cup: 15/8


The Iberian bid has kept a relatively low profile, relying heavily on Spanish Football Federation chairman Angel Maria Villar Llona to use his formidable network of contacts within Fifa to garner support.

Their much publicised alliance with the Qatar bid has raised a few eyebrows in high up Fifa circles, but could see them cruise through the first round of voting and make them difficult to beat in the second.

They were dealt a blow when it emerged that Cristiano Ronaldo would not be flying into Zurich due to a bruised ankle. The Real Madrid star would have provided Fifa voters with a visible reminder of the incredible talent emerging from these two nations. Iker Casillas and Luis Figo will be on hand to provide the recognisable faces on the bid and represent both countries, respectively.

High point: Bid ambassador Luis Figo hails the strength of the bid and speaks of the 'passion' for football in both nations.

Low point: Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko criticises the alleged-pact between the Iberian and Qatari bids.

Odds to host 2018 World Cup:  7/2


Massive underdogs but the Holland/Belgium team have had a free and easy approach to proceedings this week, which has won them plenty of admirers in Zurich.

Bid CEO Harry Been is confident they can "spring a surprise" and get through the first round, and then he thinks there is every chance that Fifa members could make a "last minute decision" and go for the low-lying nations who hosted Euro 2000.

Their presentation will also feature big hitters Johan Cruyff – still one of the most respected figures in football – and Ruud Gullit.

High point
: Gullit and Oranje fans brave the cold to light up Zurich city centre on Tuesday night for a party.
Low point: Fifa revealed concerns over the level of government co-operation needed to deliver a successful tournament.

Odds to host 2018 World Cup:  40/1

2022 bidding nations - how well did their presentations go?


Still the hot favourites according to the bookmakers but the Qatar presentation was dominated by talk of cooling and air-conditioning.

Spearheaded by bid chairman Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al Thani, the team offered a visually slick – but very defensive – presentation. Bid ambassador and veteran football coach Bora Milutinevic spoke about how hot it was in Mexico at the 1986 World Cup and the merits of cooling technology being developed in the oil-rich nation.

Sheikha Moza bint Nasser spoke with passion about the Middle East being a worthy region for a World Cup whilst very well produced videos covered both emotional and technical aspects to win the hearts and minds of Fifa’s top brass. Many were left wondering why highly-paid ambassadors such as Pep Guardiola, Zinedine Zidane, Gabriele Batistuta and Ronald de Boer were not involved.

Presentation rating: 3/5

Odds to host the 2022 World Cup: 4/6


A fun and lively presentation to kick off proceedings, with FFA boss Frank Lowy putting forward the business case for Fifa taking the World Cup into this new, emerging market. "As you know, I'm a businessman and business is in my blood," he said. "I know a good investment when I see one."

Supermodel Elle Macpherson brought some glamour to proceedings – certainly worth a shot given that Fifa’s 22 voters are all middle-aged men – and an animated video featuring a Kangaroo deftly highlighted the nation’s beauty whilst shoe-horning in the inevitable appearance from Crocodile Dundee. Tim Cahill, who was expected to speak, didn’t.

Presentation rating: 3/5

Odds to host the 2022 World Cup: 5/2 (joint second favourites)


Team USA’s presentation had it all. Actor Morgan Freeman brought gravitas to the proceedings with his opening speech focusing on diversity in the US (despite admitting to ‘skipping a page’ inadvertently), a video from Barack Obama emphasised support from the very top, whilst Landon Donovan spoke eloquently about his own journey from football-loving kid to US World Cup hero.

Diminutive US Soccer supremo Sunil Gulati presented the figures that would deliver a highly lucrative World Cup for Fifa, whilst Bill Clinton rounded off the presentation by focusing on the humanitarian aspects of the bid. If the ex-president had spoken for 10 minutes fewer it might have been the perfect presentation.

Presentation rating: 4/5

Odds to host the 2022 World Cup: 5/2 (joint second favourites)


The Japan team focused on two aspects for their presentation; kids and technology. The former came in the form of eight-year old bid presenter Rio Sasaki who opened the talk with a cute little mini-speech about her generation born in 2002.

JFA chairman Junji Ogura, who wore a Japan shirt along with his co-presenters, spoke about the growth of football in his nation and how a World Cup in 2022 would be truly futuristic with giant screens installed in stadiums around the world and other fantastic sounding innovations.

Sony boss Sir Howard Stringer was on hand to emphasise just how fast the world was changing and why Japan was at the cutting edge of technology.

Presentation rating: 3/5

Odds to host the 2022 World Cup: 33/1

South Korea

The rank outsiders in the race presented a fairly sombre talk on the back of recent hostilities between their neighbours. The suggestion that a World Cup could bring peace and unity to the divided nation by Fifa VP Chong Mong-Joon was met with a few scoffs. 

Mancester United’s Park Ji-Sung offered a high point, speaking about his own journey from playing in the street to ‘arriving at the Theatre of Dreams’.

Presentation rating: 2/5

Odds to host the 2022 World Cup: 40/1

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