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Last Updated: Monday, 26 April, 2004, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Blatter expects tight finish
Sepp Blatter meets bid delegates in South Africa
Blatter with South African bid chariman Irvin Khoza
Fifa President Sepp Blatter has suggested that the race to host the 2010 World Cup in Africa could be much closer than expected.

Blatter, who is currently visiting South Africa, said he thought the race may even be as close as that to host the 2006 World Cup.

On that occasion, Germany edged out South Africa by a single vote.

Talking at a news conference, Blatter said that he hoped he would not have to make a casting vote on 15 May.

"If you are listening around the world then you can imagine that it will possibly be as tight as it was in 2000...for the decision of 2006," he said.

"You know that in the case of a (tied) vote, the president of Fifa has to cast (the vote). I hope I will not be in that position."

South Africa is favourite to win the vote but faces strong competition from Morocco, which is making a fourth attempt to host the World Cup.

Egypt, Tunisia and Libya are also bidding but the latter two have seriously damaged their chances by suggesting a co-hosted event despite Blatter's disapproval.

Blatter and other Fifa executives are in South Africa for Tuesday's inauguration of President Thabo Mbeki's second term in office and celebrations to mark a decade since the country's first free elections.

Don't ask me where or who is my favourite - understand that I am neutral
Sepp Blatter, Fifa President

Blatter was due to meet Mbeki for private talks later on Monday but insisted he was not favouring any bid.

"Don't ask me where or who is my favourite - understand that I am neutral," he said.

South Africa has left little to chance and Nelson Mandela is expected to fly to Zurich for the Fifa vote on 15 May.

Blatter refused to be drawn on whether security worries would count against the bids from the mainly Muslim North African countries.




SEE ALSO
Africa's 2010 contenders
22 Apr 04  |  African
Spain backs Moroccan bid
25 Apr 04  |  African
Morocco's World Cup marathon
09 Mar 04  |  African
Fifa to reject joint bid
31 Mar 04  |  African



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