South Africa's hopes of hosting the 2010 World Cup were given a major boost on Tuesday
after Fifa inspectors rated their facilities as the best of five competing countries.
The World Cup will be held on African soil for the first time in 2010
A 94-page technical evaluation report described South Africa's bid as "excellent" with those of north African rivals Egypt and Morocco termed "very good".
The report said: "Despite questions about security in the country, the legacy compared to the investment needed will be a great contribution to the country.
"The inspection group's opinion is that South Africa has the
potential to organise an excellent World Cup."
This boost for South Africa comes just a fortnight before the
final vote to determine the 2010 hosts is taken by Fifa's executive
committee in Zurich on 15 May.
"If the World Cup is granted to South Africa, it will generate significant unity among the different ethnic groups that were separated socially, culturally and in sport for years," the Fifa report added.
The report said that there also was the potential for an excellent World Cup in Egypt, but added that the country was capable only of organising a "very good" event.
It pointed to Egypt's wealth of history, culture and tourism, and concluded that despite the lack of appropriate stadia to host an
event of this size, Egypt was "capable of organising a very good
Morocco, widely thought to be neck-and-neck with South Africa in the race to win the right to host the first World Cup in Africa, suffered a major blow by having questions raised over the country's lack of infrastructure.
Morocco have been ranked behind South Africa and Egypt.
Fifa said it was concerned that work had not begun on three stadiums which Morocco said four years ago were already under construction.
"We do have some concern that three stadiums presented to the
2006 Inspection Group in February 2000 as under construction have
not been realised at all," the report said.
The report appeared to represent the end of the road for the
final two contenders, Tunisia and Libya, who were presenting a joint
While Tunisia, who hosted and won the African Nations Cup in
February, had the potential to put on "a good" World Cup if they
went it alone, Libya would face "great difficulties" meeting the
required standards, Fifa said.
It highlighted Libya's lack of experience in hosting international sporting events, insufficient preparation time and lack of accommodation as key drawbacks in their bid.
Blatter expects a tight vote in Zurich
While South Africa are definite favourites they more than anyone
know that anything can happen between now and the announcement of the winner.
South Africa went into the last vote for the 2006 World Cup as
front runners only to be stunned and angered when they lost out to
Germany by a single vote.
And last month Blatter admitted it would be no shoe-in for
"If you are listening around the world then you can imagine that
it will be possibly as close as it was in 2000 ... for the decision
of 2006," said the Fifa boss.
Blatter fears he could be forced to use his casting vote later this
"In the case of a tied vote the president has to cast the vote.
I hope I will not be in that position," he said.
All five candidates will have a final chance to present their
cases the day before the final vote is held.