[ZURICH COUNTDOWN] As the countdown to Thursday's vote by FIFA's executive committee on the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Zurich continues, Soccer
America spotlights the latest developments ...
Cutting it close? Former President Bill Clinton will lead the U.S. delegation that will present its case for the 2022 World Cup to the FIFA executive committee on Wednesday afternoon, but he'll be in Greensboro, N.C., Tuesday night to talk at an event hosted by Guilford College.
Chuck's new friend. American Chuck Blazer, the lone American on the FIFA executive committee, is its resident techie. The Concacaf general secretary not only uses Facebook and Twitter, he blogs.
On his personal inspection tour of 2018 candidate Russia in early August, Blazer was stunned when during a meeting with Vladimir Putin, the Russian Prime Minister, asked him about the origins of his blog, "Travels with Chuck Blazer." Putin then described his summer vacation plans and asked Blazer if he'd post photos of the vacation trip on his blog.
Thus was born the new name to Blazer's blog: "Travels with Chuck Blazer and his friends ..." No doubt its debut on Thursday -- with photos of Putin's vacation -- sent supporters of 2018 bid rival England into a panic ...
The 2018 race. The 2018 World Cup features four bidders - England, Netherlands/Belgium, Russia and Spain/Portugal -- and will be decided before the 2022 World Cup vote takes. (UPDATE: The executive committee members will know the 2018 winner when they go to vote on the 2022 race -- this change was approved at the most recent executive committee meeting.)
Martyn Ziegler of the Press Association predicts the first round will go like this:
-- Spain/Portugal (8 votes) thanks to the controversial alliance with Qatar.
-- Russia (6 votes) including FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
-- England (5 votes) including Blazer and Concacaf president Jack Warner.
-- Netherlands/Belgium (3 votes) including UEFA President Michel Platini.
Our take? With eight votes, Spain/Portugal is assured of advancing to the third and final round. The key to the 2018 World Cup race will be the second round. Is Platini's second choice England or Russia? Do Blazer and Warner stick with England or switch to Russia in the hope of getting support from the Russian bloc for the USA in the second or third round of the 2022 race? Do Africans Issa Hayatou and Jacques Anouma eventually side with Spain/Portugal? (If they did, that would be bad news for the USA.)