World Cup - England post-mortem begins

Thu, 02 Dec 19:32:00 2010

England's bid to stage the World Cup for the first time in more than half a century ended in a humiliating first-round defeat when they collected just two votes from the 22-man FIFA executive committee.

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One of those votes was from their own representative Geoff Thompson meaning England's £15 million, two-year campaign to stage the 2018 tournament, 52 years after they last staged it in 1966, gained just one additional vote.

That vote was likely to have been cast by declared supporter Junji Ogura of Japan, while other votes promised to England clearly went elsewhere with Russia emerging triumphant.

Thompson, trying to explain the huge snub, struggled to contain his shock.

"I cannot believe what has happened, and I am naturally very, very disappointed," he said.

"The votes that were promised clearly didn't materialise. I never imagined we would go out in the first round."

David Dein, the bid's international president, who has flown around the world several times seeking support from executive committee members, was equally staggered.

"I am utterly stunned," he said.

"I knew we had obstacles to overcome, and it was always going to be a tough task -- we knew that. But we did not expect to lose like this -- never in our wildest dreams.

"I thought we would go two or three rounds at the very least, but it was not to be. As in football, on the pitch, sometimes the best team does not win.

"We will have to see what went wrong, but certain elements did not help us."

The bid was rated as the strongest by FIFA's technical inspection team and also finished ahead of competitors Russia, Spain/Portugal and Netherlands/Belgium in an independent economic report on projected revenue.

But those points were ignored by FIFA's top table which means the motherland of the game cannot hope to stage the finals again until 2026 at the earliest.

The wounds from this setback may just have healed by then.

After FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced Russia would stage the finals, and the full story of England's defeat began to emerge, there was little doubt about what undermined it.

An investigation by the Sunday Times that led to two FIFA executive committee members being suspended after allegations they offered to sell their votes for cash was compounded by a BBC documentary which made further allegations of corruption.

As if those were not big enough obstacles for the bid to overcome, crowd trouble at a League Cup tie in Birmingham on Wednesday night between local rivals Birmingham City and Aston Villa further damaged the bid's credibility.

David Beckham, who gave a polished performance in England's final bid presentation, looked completely stunned by the result.

Asked if the corruption allegations had harmed the bid, the former England captain replied: "I don't know, perhaps you should ask the delegates that.

"The odd member mentioned the allegations, and what had been said, but it had been smoothed out and everything was looking positive."

The bid endured something of a roller-coaster ride but looked to be gaining in momentum until the Sunday Times published its allegations about corruption within FIFA.

So despite promising FIFA record profits, and having the stadiums and infrastructure to host a dazzling finals, England's bid was left in tatters.

The national team have struggled to make an impact on the World Cup since they lifted the trophy on home soil.

The country's administrators have now suffered a similar unpalatable setback confirming England's place among the also-rans in the game it gave to the world.

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Reuters

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