England 2018 bid calls up stars as Iberians advance

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The Independent Online

Fabio Capello and Sir Bobby Charlton will be part of a 30-strong contingent going to Zurich next week seeking to convince Fifa to award England the 2018 World Cup finals. The party boasts a collective 490 caps plus one prime minister, two ministers, a prince, two lords and Boris Johnson – but for all that political know-how, committed supporters remain in short supply.

Yesterday Mohamed bin Hammam, the Qatari president of the Asian Football Confederation, stated publicly for the first time that he would be voting for Spain-Portugal – but maintained there was no illegal pact between the Iberians and Qatar, who are bidding for the 2022 finals.

"Asia supports the Iberian bid. There's an excellent relationship between Asian football and Spanish football," said Bin Hamman.

It was also confirmed yesterday that the three South American votes will go to the Iberians. This week Spain-Portugal claimed to have the support of eight of the 22 executive committee members.

That left the three votes of the north and central American federation, Concacaf, as a crucial target for England's stellar team, but it will not have been encouraged by a bizarre posting on the personal website of Chuck Blazer, the US representative. Blazer put up a fawning blog of his meeting with the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, who will play a leading part in the Russian presentation. Blazer has also posted 20 photographs of Putin's holiday in Siberia.

With the likes of Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and John Barnes yesterday joining David Beckham, the 2018 bid's vice-president, there was a bright spot for England when Angel Laborda, the chief economist at the Spanish savings bank foundation, said that cities proposing to update stadiums would face trouble getting loans. "If building these stadiums means taking on more debt, I fear they won't happen," he said.

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