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World Cup vote: Decision day for 2018 and 2022 bidders

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Beckham's passionate World Cup bid presentation

The countries bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups have made their final pleas to football's governing body Fifa ahead of the results at about 1510 GMT.

A secret ballot of Fifa's 22 executive members in the Swiss city of Zurich on Thursday will decide the winners.

England, Spain/Portugal, Russia and Belgium/Netherlands are competing for the right to be the 2018 hosts.

Australia, the United States, South Korea, Japan and Qatar are hoping to land the 2022 tournament.

After the 2022 bidders made their final pitches on Wednesday, it was the turn of the 2018 contenders on Thursday morning.

Netherlands and Belgium went first, Spain and Portugal were second, England took to the stage third and Russia completed proceedings.

England's presentation opened with Eddie Afekafe, a bid ambassador who works with Manchester City on their community programmes, explaining how football had changed his life.

Mr Afekafe spoke of how, four years ago, he was unemployed and had friends who were in gangs and prison.

"What I got, what they didn't get, was an opportunity," he said. "And that opportunity came through football."

He promised an England selection would "change the lives of millions of people like me".

Prince William and David Beckham then stressed England's pledge to invest in football's global development.

England, which last hosted the World Cup in 1966, has vowed to match Fifa's $120m (£76.6m) annual investment in grassroots football around the world by 2018.

"It's not just about us," said Prince William. "I give you an assurance that England is committed to playing its full and proper role in developing football internationally as a member of your global footballing family."

Prince William and David Cameron open England's bid

The 28-year-old, who will marry Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey on 29 April 2011, joked: "I know that we can deliver extraordinary public occasions and celebrations. I certainly hope so as I'm planning quite a big one myself next year."

The Football Association president added:"The English love football. That's why it would be such an honour for us to host the 2018 World Cup."

Beckham was next to urge the executive committee to back his country's bid.

"Each of you has the chance to create opportunities for young people in each of your countries, in every confederation, in every corner of the world, to create a better future for our grandchildren and many millions more," he stated.

"Just imagine what we could achieve together. Our dream is to stage a World Cup that benefits billions."

British Prime Minister David Cameron used his speech to highlight how the diversity that exists in England will make the country a welcoming environment for fans and players.

"They will feel at home in England," explained Cameron. "Think of any nationality, any religion, any background and I bet you we have that community in England. So we can provide a home crowd for every team."

Bid chief executive Andy Anson informed Fifa President Sepp Blatter that England could host the World Cup almost immediately because most of the stadiums that would host matches in 2018 are already in place.

Blatter described the presentation as "excellent and remarkable".

The Netherlands and Belgium had earlier told the audience that "small is beautiful" and theirs was the "fun bid".

Bid president Ruud Gullit said: "We have a great offer. It's a safe choice in every aspect. We are a compact bid and our limited size is our real strength, it makes it easy for players, officials and, of course, the fans."

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Spain and Portugal packed their presentation with serious political messages and Spanish president Jose Luis Zapatero stressed the quality of his country's infrastructure.

"Spain is the country with the broadest network of high-speed trains in Europe," he insisted. "We have 50 airports in Iberia, Spain and Portugal is also the most visited destination worldwide, 70m tourists a year - that's an example of our hotel power and our ability to host."

Russia wrapped things up with their Fifa member Vitaly Mutko pointing out that eastern Europe has never previously hosted the World Cup.

"Twenty one years ago the Berlin Wall was broken," said Mutko. "Today we can break another symbolic wall and open a new era in football together.

"Russia represents new horizons for Fifa, millions of new hearts and minds and a great legacy after the World Cup, great new stadiums and millions of boys and girls embracing the game.

"Russia's economy is large and growing, and Russia's sports market is developing markedly."

Controversy has dogged the build-up to the ballot, with the Fifa executive committee reduced from 24 members after the suspension of two voters.

Nigerian Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii, of Tahiti, were given bans of three years and one year respectively after claims in the Sunday Times newspaper that they were prepared to sell their votes for the 2018 tournament.

On Monday, the BBC's Panorama programme alleged three other Fifa officials - Nicolas Leoz, Issa Hayatou and Ricardo Teixeira - took bribes in the 1990s.

Blatter has brushed off the controversies, while admitting it may have been a mistake to hold the vote for two tournaments at the same time.

England were long-time favourites for the 2018 competition but it was feared corruption claims about the voting process which surfaced in the British media could have a negative impact, and Russia built momentum in recent weeks to stage the tournament for the first time.

In the final days, England have fought back with Prime Minister Cameron, Prince William and Beckham leading a strong delegation to Switzerland.

Russia's hopes have been knocked by the absence of their Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, but the Spain/Portugal joint bid is considered a strong contender, with the Netherlands/Belgium rated outsiders.

VOTING PROCEDURE
Process: Secret ballot of 22 ExCo members at Fifa headquarters
To win: One bid needs an absolute majority - 12 votes
If no majority: Bid with fewest votes drops out and another round of voting occurs until majority achieved
If tie: Fifa president Sepp Blatter has casting vote
Announcement: Results put in two envelopes and taken to Zurich Exhibition Centre, where Blatter announces winner (approx 1500 GMT)

While Cameron has been in Zurich for most of the week his Russian counterpart Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has not travelled to Zurich.

Putin has claimed that Fifa has been the victim of a smear campaign and should be left to make its decision "in peace and without any outside pressure".

However, the 58-year-old's spokesman announced on Thursday that Putin will be ready travel to Fifa headquarters if Russia wins the vote.

Spain and Portugal's bid team was also hoping that Cristiano Ronaldo would make an appearance, but the injured Real Madrid forward is unable to attend.

Iberian bid chief executive Miguel Angel Lopez believes England is neck-and-neck with Spain and Portugal.

"We are confident, we are not certain. We think we will win, we have eight votes for sure and it looks like it will be against England in the final round," said Lopez.

With those eight votes, Spain and Portugal are likely to win the first round of voting, but England hope to stay in the running and then pick up the votes when Netherlands/Belgium are eliminated to overtake the Iberian bid.

In the event of a tie, Blatter will have the casting vote.

If England does secure the right to stage the 2018 World Cup it would represent a remarkable turnaround given the furore that has engulfed Fifa over corruption allegations.

Earlier this year England's bid was also hit by the resignation of Lord Triesman, who stood down as chairman of the Football Association as well as the England 2018 World Cup bid, after what he called his "entrapment" by the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

And on the eve of Thursday's vote, there was an unwelcome reminder of the dark days of English football, with violence at the end of Birmingham's win over city rivals Aston Villa at St Andrew's in the Carling Cup with police in riot gear clearing fans off the pitch.

Fifa is expected to announce the 2018 winner about 1500 GMT, with the decision for 2022 to follow.

The five 2022 bidders made their final pitch on Wednesday, with Bill Clinton making an appearance for the United States' formal presentation.

Clinton's speech over-ran the 30-minute time limit by nine minutes, before current international Landon Donovan told delegates their country was well placed to host the tournament successfully, as it had done in 1994.

Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman also presented his case, though briefly fluffed his lines during his speech, and current president Barack Obama sent a video message to the Zurich delegation.

Zinedine Zidane - who has Arab ancestry - was also in attendance to back Qatar's bid, while Australia had Elle Macpherson to speak alongside Frank Lowy, chairman of Australia's football federation.

Manchester United's Park Ji-Sung spoke in favour of South Korea's bid, while Japan promised that technology would play a huge part if it won the race, saying around 400 stadiums around the country would have 3-D flat screens to show matches.



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see also
World Cup decision day as it happened
02 Dec 10 |  Football
The race to host the World Cup
30 Nov 10 |  Football
World Cup vote photos
02 Dec 10 |  Football
View from the opposition camps
01 Dec 10 |  Football
The World Cup in their hands
02 Dec 10 |  Football
Beckham has faith in Fifa members
01 Dec 10 |  Football
Bidders for 2022 make final pitch
01 Dec 10 |  Football
Putin to stay away from Fifa bid
01 Dec 10 |  Europe
Cameron focused on World Cup bid
30 Nov 10 |  Football


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