ZURICH — The races to host both the 2018 and 2022 World Cup have gone to the wire Thursday, with no candidate emerging as a lock to secure the vote of the FIFA executive committee.
Capping three days of intense lobbying, British Prime Minister David Cameron was at the center of a smooth final presentation for England. It stood in sharp contrast with the overly long show of Spain-Portugal to sway the 22 FIFA voters for the 2018 tournament.
Russia was already hurt by the no-show of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and it seemed unlikely the quirky, fun presentation of Belgium-Netherlands could do much to change their long-shot status.
The five bidders for 2022, Qatar, the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea, had their presentations on Wednesday.
The winners will be announced later Thursday.
The bids come from all corners of the globe and offered a contrast in styles. England's bid stood out with a mix of princely and soccer royalty, from Prince William to David Beckham.
"I know that we can deliver extraordinary public occasions and celebrations," Prince William said.
"I certainly hope so as I'm planning quite a big one myself next year," he said, referring to his upcoming marriage to Kate Middleton.
England's final presentation was only a half hour after years of intense lobbying.
Spain-Portugal indirectly targeted England when it highlighted the corruption allegations against FIFA officials that surfaced in the British media over the past month.
"FIFA is a clean institution. FIFA works honestly," bid president Angel Maria Villar said. "You are all honest, hardworking people."
Spain-Portugal's presentation ran well over time and often seemed awkward. Although bid officials have kept a near invisible profile, centering on behind-the-scenes lobbying only, Spain-Portugal is still seen as England's main challenger.
Meeting a key demand of FIFA, the leaders of Belgium and the Netherlands gave guarantees of full cooperation if their joint bid wins. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the two governments "can fulfill all of FIFA's needs and at the same time host a wonderful tournament."
In a FIFA assessment of the bid two weeks ago, the organization complained that the necessary government support was still lacking. As an underdog with little to lose, the Belgium-Netherlands presentation was far from conventional.
It mixed footage of old interviews with updated voice-overs — a quirky trick making it seem that the joint bid has been destined to win since Johan Crujff's heyday as a player in the 1970s.