How the World Cup bid rivals compare

Which spin doctors could swing the votes, who are the favourites, and which outsiders have the other nations worried?
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England's campaign to win the 2018 or 2022 World Cup faces a field of rivals that has never been so crowded or competitive. Partly this is because the tournaments for 2010 and 2014 were effectively shoo-ins for South Africa and Brazil. Football continues to expand, so more nations want a piece of the world's biggest single-sport event. The strengths and weakness of the field are as follows.

England

Has the stadiums, infrastructure and global interest in its domestic game. Last hosted longer ago (1966) than any other major European football nation. But any hint of "divine right" would be damaging, so the 2018 team are steering well clear of any such message. Ticks all the boxes to host a huge event within weeks, let alone nine years. Average odds on winning 2018 world Cup: 2-1

Russia

Has never held the event, which is an emotional pull (think Rio for the 2016 Olympics) and bid is supported vocally by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. No expense spared in campaigning for the event. Security is a concern, so too the geographical spread of venues. Having no team at the 2010 World Cup will be a minor setback, a lost opportunity for showcasing on-field change. Russia has a key asset in its main spin doctor, Andreas Herren, who joined after holding the top PR role for years at Fifa, where he is well connected. Odds: 4-1

Portugal & Spain

Who doesn't like the idea of a sunny Iberian tournament with two of the grandest cathedrals – the Bernabeu and the Nou Camp – at centre stage? This bid will get the automatic support of the South American Conmebol bloc. However, dual bids still do not sit entirely comfortably with the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter. Odds: 7-2

Netherlands & Belgium

The European outsiders, who co-hosted a major event as recently as 2000. Playing catch-up with facilities and global support. Odds: 20-1

United States

Will mount a strong technical bid with huge financial rewards for Fifa, as in 1994, since when they have developed their pro league, the MLS. Will probably struggle to oust Europe as the hosts in 2018 purely because of Uefa's eight votes. The US has big, fan-friendly stadiums, plus the backing of President Barack Obama. Odds: 25-1

Australia

Dark horses from a genuinely sport-mad nation. They are employing top-class spin doctor Peter Hargitay, the fantastically connected Swiss-Hungarian former adviser to Blatter. A character for whom the adjective "colourful" could have been invented. Google him. Odds: 3-1

Indonesia

Bidding on a development mantra but lacks facilities, infrastructure and any widespread support. Odds: 40-1

Japan

Co-hosted a friendly, efficient trouble-free 2002 World Cup, and therein lies the problem – too recent host. Odds: 20-1

South Korea

Only running for 2022 event. Problem: co-hosted the competition recently, in 2002). Odds (for 2022): Unavailable

Qatar

The crowd atmosphere at England against Brazil was nil. The heat is stifling. But petrodollars and geopolitics go far. Also boasts another of sport's sultans of spin: Mike Lee, a former Premier League spokesman who helped London and Rio win the Olympics. Odds (for 2022): Unavailable.

Q&A: How the voting works

Q: When will the destination of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments be decided and how?

A: In early December 2010, the 24 members of Fifa's executive committee (ExCo) will first vote for the 2018 host, then 2022. There are eight candidates for 2018 – Australia, Belgium & the Netherlands jointly, England, Indonesia, Japan, Portugal & Spain jointly, Russia and the US. Those eight, plus Qatar and South Korea, are also bidding for 2022. All candidates from whichever federation wins 2018 automatically fall out of the running for 2022. So if a European nation wins 2018, no European nations will be considered for 2022.

Q: Is it likely that a European nation will win the vote for 2018?

A: Yes, because by 2018 the tournament will have been away from Europe twice in succession, in South Africa (2010) and Brazil (2014). The powerful, influential and largest federation, Uefa, wants it back in Europe in 2018. Fifa, the world governing body, will also want a financially lucrative tournament. Ticket sales, TV income and commercial deals in Europe would be strong.

Q: Why is Uefa's muscle key?

A: Because Uefa ExCo members have more votes (eight) than any bloc, followed by Africa (CAF has four), Asia (the AFC has four), North and Central America (Concacaf has three), South America (Conmebol has three) and Oceania (the OFC has one). The Uefa president, Michel Platini, will encourage his allies to work together for the good of Europe, urging them to back a strong candidate as and when their own bids bite the dust.

Q: Do all blocs vote together?

A: There is a strong precedent for group voting in all regions. By the letter of Fifa's law, acting in concert is not allowed but it happens.

Q: What's the worst-case scenario for England?

A: That they fail to get Uefa support, lose first-preference votes in Africa to a rich rival (eg Russia) that promises the earth, and that Concacaf does deals elsewhere.

Q: How likely is that?

A: The England bid team remain hopeful of support from Europe's four "free" voters – Germany, Cyprus, France and Turkey – and knowledgeable sources tell The Independent this optimism is well founded, for now, as are hopes of support in Africa. Concacaf is less clear. Conmebol will initially back Spain. Asia is divided.

Q: What's a feasible outcome for 2018?

A: That England, Russia or Portugal-Spain will win it, with England well-placed to triumph via second-preference votes but nobody complacent about Russia's threat. In 2022, the US will be strong, but Australia are dark horses.

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