The Cup Running Over

November 30, 2010 10:20 AM

The Latest From Zurich: Spain/Portugal and Qatar Remain the Slightest of Favorites For World Cup Selection

World leaders and the world's sporting press (except for the US, of course) are now descending upon Zurich for Thursday's votes on who gets to host soccer's World Cups in 2018 and 2022. With so many gathered and so little to report (after all, the 22 delegates aren't talking), rumors are rampant. Yesterday, we had Spain/Portugal as slight favorites for 2018, ahead of England and Russia, and Qatar in front of the USA for 2022. Today's stories seem to confirm that trend.

The US press contingent in Zurich poses for a picture in anticipation of whether the USA gets awarded the 2022 World Cup on Thursday.

Today's hot stories/rumors:

-- Are Things Not Going Russia's Way? There are reports that Vladamir Putin may not make the trip to Zurich as expected to make a last-minute plea to delegates. If true, it means Russia's bid may be fading. That's good news for England but probably even better news for the Spain/Portugal forces who seem to be moving in the direction of locking down a majority, as the Russian bid chairman attacked the others for "collusion" - a clear jibe at Spain/Portugal.

-- A postponement for the 2022 vote? The German magazine Kicker is reporting that FIFA is in emergency meetings whether to put off the vote on the 2022 Cup until 2012. Since no one believes that FIFA really cares about corruption, if true, this could be a sign that some significant power believes it's going to lose and can exert enough pressure to try to get the vote postponed. But who could that be? The likeliest is Russia, which if it loses for 2018, could try again for 2022 -- but only if the vote is put off Thursday.

-- British press backlash. A Monday night BBC Panorama show accused three new FIFA executives of taking bribes in the past, leading to calls for further suspensions (beyond the two committee members suspended already). The calls are expected to be ignored though it's unclear whether there will be a further backlash against the English bid for, well, reporting the corruption.

The bottom line? Same as yesterday: Qatar and Spain/Portugal remain the favorites but only slightly.

If one wins, the other will likely too. If Spain/Portugal loses, however, the USA's chances look much brighter.

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