Race to host 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments set for hectic final flourish

Fifa's executive committee to cast its votes in Zurich on Thursday

With Fifa's executive committee due to cast its votes in Zurich on Thursday to decide the host nations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, a frantic final round of palm-greasing is in store for bid teams from the hopeful countries.

In the running for 2018 are holders Spain and Portugal, in a joint Iberian bid, England, Russia and a partnership of the Netherlands and Belgium. Qatar, Japan, South Korea, Australia and 1994 host USA are contesting the right to hold the 2022 tournament. Both World Cup locations will be decided during Thursday's vote.

Danny Jordaan, who masterminded South Africa's failed 2006 and successful 2010 bids, spoke on Tuesday of the importance of the "Mandela factor" in his country's campaign. "There is no doubt it had a huge impact."

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England has Prime Minister David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham among its delegation in Zurich while Russia is being backed by the considerable clout of Vladimir Putin.

The Spain and Portugal team is confident of the strength of its bid and it is believed it may have secured several votes by showcasing the former's World Cup-winning stars in international friendly matches in the Americas.

England, meanwhile, is caught in a storm of controversy after a BBC program broadcast allegations of bribery in the bidding for the 2014 World Cup, to be staged in Brazil. Fifa suspended two of its committee members, Reynald Temarii and Amos Adamu, for accepting bribes in BBC sting.

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