GRANT WAHL -- SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
2018: Russia 4-5, England 7-4, Iberia 3-1.
"United States -- The 1994 World Cup host wouldn't need to build any new stadiums and says soccer could make a quantum leap in the world's biggest economy. Detractors point out that U.S. just hosted the World Cup 16 years ago. Odds: 4/5.
Qatar - Upstart emirate has dropped millions on celebrity endorsements (Zinédine Zidane) and promised to build air-conditioned stadiums and training sites. But tiny country the size of Connecticut promises logistical problems, and a recently released FIFA report says the overpowering heat poses "a potential health risk for players, officials, the FIFA family and spectators." Odds: 9/4.
Australia - Aussies have never hosted the World Cup and put on a successful 2000 Olympics in Sydney. But the time zone is bad for TV broadcasts in Europe and the Americas, and awarding the bid to any member of the Asian confederation (which includes Australia and the other non-U.S. bidders) would prevent FIFA favorite China from hosting the Cup until perhaps 2034. Odds: 5/2.
South Korea - Longshot bid co-hosted '02 Cup, but adds political angle by promising to include North Korean host city. Odds: 12/1.
Japan - Longshot bid co-hosted 2002 World Cup, but proposing high-tech event. Odds: 20/1."
This site lists the odds at various British oddsmakers. The consensus:
For 2018: Russia a strong favorite, England second, Spain a fairly distant third.
For 2022: Qatar a strong favorite, USA second, Australia a close third.
Are England's chances on the rise, as some experts believe? (Photo courtesy of theuksportsnetwork.com)
GABRIELE MARCOTTI , BBC AND UK TIMES (ACCORDING TO MARK LANGDON ON TWITTER):
For 2018: Russia 8-11, England 3-1, Iberia 7-1
For 2022: Qatar 4-5, Australia 3-1, USA 6-1
Makes Russia the favorite for 2018, with Iberia and England trailing. Makes Qatar the 2022 favorite, with the USA trailing.
OLIVER KAY, UK TIMES (VIA TWITTER):
2018: "Sudden flush of English optimism in Zurich tonight re 2018. Still far too many ifs and buts though. Genuine 3-horse race"
2022: "USA emerging as clear favourites. Would never have said this pre-94, but they're the obvious choice again."
2018: For what it's worth, everyone makes Russia the favorite in a close three-competitor race. The key for Iberia seems to be that while it has eight solid votes -- enough to probably get to the last round -- the problem is in finding four more. If England can possibly pip another of the contenders to get to the finals, even it has an outside chance.
2022: Most outsiders think Qatar is the favorite, with the USA a close second. It all depends on how many European votes Qatar can get. It will be close.