FIFA World Cup 2014 – Monday 23 June 2014

Sunday is traditionally a day of rest and it seemed that Belgium and Russia took that literally in the opening game yesterday. It was overall a game of poor quality, although Belgium started and ended it well. In between it was nothing much to write home about. Dries Mertens was dangerous out wide for Belgium in the opening spell of the first-half, whilst Eden Hazard rekindled the game in the last ten minutes of the second-half as the Russians tired badly. The Chelsea midfielder, Hazard, provided the winner as his cut-back ball allowed substitute Divock Origi to slam home with just two minutes remaining. Belgium through and the 2018 World Cup hosts, Russia, on the brink of exit.

The concept of ‘rest’ continued into game two of the day as South Korea might have well been sat in deckchairs on the Copacabana beach for the first-half against Algeria. Their defensive display by Korea was so inept that they found themselves 3-0 down at half-time (did someone say betting scandal?), although credit to Algeria as they capitalised on their opponents generosity. In the second-half, Korea briefly rallied as they pulled a goal back, but any chance of a comeback was killed off by a fourth Algerian goal, although Korea scored a scored to add some respectability to the score-line.

So to the last of the actions yesterday between the USA and Portugal. Nani had put Portugal ahead early in the first-half and they held the advantage at the break. The goal had come from a howler from Geoff Cameron and looked like it was taken straight out of the South Korean defence training manual used in the previous game. However, the game was all about the second-half. Jones showed real class to curl in the equaliser for USA and when Dempsey headed home with nine minutes remaining, it was Portugal who were heading home. But there was drama to come, as with seconds remaining, Michael Bradley lost possession to Ronaldo and the captain’s cross was headed in by Varela. This group is still up for grabs.

The last of the group games starts later today and hopefully more drama and shocks await…

World Cup 2018 – Fallout

Two days on the FIFA decision on Thursday still hurts and continues to make headlines. The debate about the rights and wrongs will rumble on. In looking to close out what has occurred this week, the words of acting FA Chairman Roger Burden possibly best sum up the frustrations of the England Bid Team.

“…We (England) were equal top of FIFA’s own technical assessment of the four bids…We were top of an independent assessment of the best commercial bids and our presentation on Thursday was widely acclaimed as the best of the 2018 and 2022 bids…Against this background, I am struggling to understand how we only achieved two votes. It is difficult to believe that the voting was an objective process…On top of that, Prince William, the Prime Minister and other members of our delegation were promised votes that did not materialise…”

Burden points to the obvious question, in that if the Bid is based on the FIFA assessments and the England Bid came out on top in these, then what where the factors that the Executive Committee used to make its decision to award the 2018 event to Russia?

Unfortunately the Sunday Times and BBC Panorama programme provided the “excuse” for FIFA to reject the England Bid.

Roger Burden has subsequently withdrawn his application for the position of FA Chairman, saying that in the post he would have to work closely with FIFA, but feels he would be unable to, as he no longer trusts or has faith in the FIFA Executive Committee. A thought echoed by many, many people after Thursday.

World Cup 2018 – D-day

Thursday 02 December 2010 – So here we go. After two years effort by the various Bid teams, the decision to award the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups is only hours away. Just as the 2022 hopefuls made their final presentations yesterday, this morning the 2018 Bids make their final 30 minute pleas. The Netherlands/Belgium Bid team kick-off proceedings, followed by Spain/Portugal, England and finally Russia. The Executive Committee then go into their conclave, with the announcement likely from 15:00.

Just to reiterate, 12 votes are needed to secure a majority. If this figure isn’t reached in the first round of voting, then the Bid with the fewest votes drops out and another round of voting occurs until the majority is achieved.

What is my gut feeling? Well the bookies are rarely far off the mark and if they are to be believed then Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022) will be celebrating later today. My preferences are England (2018) and Australia (2022), but I don’t really believe that this will come to pass and so I don’t feel nervous as the minutes tick away to decision time.

The fact is that I believe that the England 2018 is the best bid in so many ways and this was further reinforced a few days ago by the report compiled by FIFA consultants McKinsey which revealed that after an analysis of a number of financial sectors, England topped the findings as the Bid would meet 100% profitability in every area. 2018 rivals Spain/Portugal received 91%, Netherlands/Belgium were given 87% and Russia were awarded 86%.

However, there has to be an acceptance that there are people looking for an excuse not to award the tournament to England. The Sunday Times investigation and the BBC Panorama programme supplied some ammunition for the detractors of the English Bid as did the ugly scenes at the end of the Birmingham City and Aston Villa League Cup game last night.

Despite my lack of optimism, is there a final twist to proceedings today? Back in 2001 Beckham saved England’s blushes against Greece with a last minute free-kick to secure qualification for the 2002 World Cup. Can “Becks” inspire another England team of a different kind, to snatch a dramatic win?

World Cup 2018 – 6 days to decision

The news that the South American Football Federation (CONMEBOL) have pledged their 3 votes to the Spain/Portugal Bid should not come as any great surprise, considering the historical and cultural links between the respective countries. Indeed the Iberian Bid team are in bullish mood, with the Spain/Portugal Chief Executive Miguel Angel Lopez confidently claiming they had 8 of the 22 votes.

With the Nigerian and Tahitian members banned from voting the 22 remaining votes are spread as follows:

Continent Organisation


Asia AFC


Central Africa CAF


Europe UEFA


North & Central America and Caribbean CONCACAF


South America CONMEBOL


Sepp Blatter FIFA President


 The method used to elect the successful Host Nation will be via the Exhaustive Ballot. In the Exhaustive Ballot each FIFA member casts a single vote for the candidate bid of their choice. However, if no nation receives an absolute majority of votes (in this case 12) then the bid with the fewest votes is eliminated and a further round of voting occurs. This process is repeated for as many rounds as necessary until one candidate has a majority. Sepp Blatter has a vote, with the FIFA President also having the casting vote in the event of a tie.

In this scenario a candidate who has the most votes in the first round does not necessarily win through. The trick is to avoid elimination and then pick up the votes of the nation just eliminated as the rounds of voting continue. To try and work out the numerous permutations of voting and the number of rounds it may take is a fruitless exercise in speculation.

This time next week, the England 2018 Bid Team will be waking up to face the morning after the night before. Hopefully they don’t awake to the sight of champagne still on ice.

World Cup 2018 – 7 days to decision

Over the years I’ve probably been to see England on about a dozen occasions. Two of those were World Cup Qualifying games. The first was against Switzerland at Wembley in November 1980. England lined-up as follows:

Shilton, Neal, Sansom, Robson, Watson, Mills (Captain), Coppell, McDermott, Mariner, Brooking (Rix), Woodcock.

It was a game that seemed to be all over and done with at half time. England had taken the lead on 22 minutes as Tony Woodcock’s shot was deflected in by Tanner. When Paul Mariner made it 2-0 on 36 minutes, it seemed that the points were safely secured and England would win comfortably. However, with the injured Trevor Brooking departing in the second-half Switzerland grew in confidence and were rewarded with a goal on 76 minutes by Pfister. Suddenly there was desperation about England and the Wembley crowd breathed a huge sigh of relief when the referee blew for full-time. My abiding memory of the game was provided by a group of Swiss fans. They supported their team with gusto throughout armed with the biggest set of cow-bells I’ve ever seen or heard.

 If the Swiss game was an uncomfortable experience, then worse was to follow in April the following year. Romania were the opponents as England lined-up as follows:

Shilton, Anderson, Sansom, Robson, Watson (Captain), Osman, Wilkins, Brooking (McDermott), Coppell, Francis, Woodcock.

 It was a game in which England never got going and struggled with a resolute Romanian defence. The game ended 0-0 and the England players were booed off at the end of the game, with Qualification looking difficult in a Group that was turning out to be very close.

Things got worse for Ron Greenwood’s team as in May 1981 they went to Switzerland and lost 2-1. This left three games left in which to salvage their World Cup campaign. England had two games in June of that year. The first was away to Group front-runners Hungary and they swept to a stunning 3-1 win in Budapest thanks to two goals from Trevor Brooking and one from Kevin Keegan. Just three days later England travelled to Norway and all seemed to be going well when Bryan Robson gave the visitors the lead on the quarter hour. However, by half-time Norway had stormed ahead 2-1. England found no way back and it led to the infamous commentary at the end of the game on Norwegian TV by Bjorge Lillelien. “…Lord Nelson! Lord Beaverbrook! Sir Winston Churchill! Sir Anthony Eden! Clement Attlee! Henry Cooper! Lady Diana! Maggie Thatcher – can you hear me, Maggie Thatcher! Your boys took one hell of a beating! Your boys took one hell of a beating!…”. The final game in the Group came in November 1981 at Wembley against Hungary who had already booked their World Cup place. An early Paul Mariner goal settled the nerves and England won 1-0 to seal Qualification for the 1982 World Cup.

The location for the 1982 World Cup was Spain. With a week to go to decision day, could that country be co-hosting the event in 2018?

World Cup 2018 – 8 days to decision

Just a teenager by a few of months, I remember with affection England winning the World Cup in 1966. For those not old enough to recall it, sorry, but it really was a special day and I shared in the nation’s joy on that sunny afternoon in late July. Our family holiday had taken us down to Perranporth and, sitting in the hotel lounge, we watched the Wembley drama unfold. Winning the Rugby Union World Cup pales into nothingness in comparison, despite all the media hype. That day gripped the whole nation, not just sections of it. As the game built to its extra time conclusion, so the crowd in the lounge grew. The chefs quit the kitchen to watch the compelling final minutes and, after we had won, people were so happy that there were hardly any complaints about our meals not being ready as a consequence. The tv audience was 32,300,000 (the biggest one ever, being two thirds of the total population) but I’m sure they forgot to count our chefs.

Reading the papers the next day was wonderful as each one celebrated that never-before or since event. The triumph lifted everybody, whilst beating a good, strong team and our traditional rivals West Germany made it even sweeter. Mind you, it is a long time ago now.

But all of those memories have made me yearn for the World Cup to return to England and I can’t believe it hasn’t happened yet. Both Mexico and Germany have hosted two since then, France have had two altogether and Brazil are lining up their second. Therefore, it is not unreasonable for the Home of Football to want a second turn – even if it seems tied in with the notion that that is perhaps our only way of winning it again. Sadly, that desire to host has been frustrated many times over the years, however, and if England fail this time, the next possible year will be 2026. 60 years since ’66 and there are no guarantees even then.

I have a great deal of sympathy for all the people who have been part of the 2018 England Bid. So much work has been put in that it will be galling if it is ultimately to no avail. But that must be true for people in the other bidding countries; Belgium & Netherlands, Russia, Portugal & Spain. And this is where I find the whole business unpalatable. There is something wrong with a system that encourages people to spend millions of pounds fruitlessly. I know that much of the stadium redevelopment will only happen if England’s bid is successful and yet an enormous amount of preparatory work has had to be done anyway. A winning bid will probably make it worthwhile but how can FIFA allow so many countries to spend so much? Isn’t there supposed to have been a global economic downturn? Maybe FIFA are from the Lord Young School of Economics?

Once I start to think about the bid and the voting process, I really begin to feel uncomfortable about the whole thing. People bang on about carbon footprints, global warming, saving the planet and so on, and yet bidders are jetting here there and everywhere, carrying wonderful gifts, making sparkling Powerpoint presentations and giving out plenty of free key rings in order to woo some very ordinary people into voting their way.

Most of me still hopes England’s bid is successful but, in the end, I wish FIFA had cut out all the fuss and printed a list saying ‘Here are the World Cup venues for the next forty years.’ And that England realised the best way to win it again is for the team to play the best football.   


Author: Graeme Garvey

World Cup 2018 – 10 days to decision

According to a number of bookmakers England are still favourites to get the decision on 02 December to host the 2018 World Cup. So armed with a tenner would you put your money on Wembley Stadium having the World Cup Final played under its arch in 2018? What do the bookies base this on?

The issue of countries presenting joint bids is an interesting one. Both FIFA and UEFA over the years have gone with the dual nation arrangement for the hosting of their events. The 2002 World Cup in Japan/South Korea is the only occasion to date that the FIFA tournament has taken this approach. UEFA however, had the 2000 tournament in Belgium/Netherlands, the 2008 event in Austria/Switzerland and in 2012 is set to be played in Poland/Ukraine. This shows there has been some appetite in the past to try this approach, but have both UEFA and FIFA consigned future joint bids to the subs bench?

For 2014 FIFA has awarded the World Cup tournament to Brazil and for 2018, the recent Executive Summary Reports have stated that the fact that Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Netherlands are joint bids, is a possible risk/weakness of their submissions. Interestingly for 2022, there are no joint bids at all to host the World Cup. UEFA have awarded the 2016 European Championships to France and during that process the only joint bid (Norway/Sweden) withdrew before voting. So based on this apparent move back to single country hosting is it fair to surmise that the joint bids for 2018 will be unsuccessful?

If we assume this to be the case then England is left with Russia as its sole rival. FIFA has in recent years been looking to take the World Cup to different locations, as witnessed by Japan/South Korea (2002), South Africa (2010) and in 2022 could take it to new venues in either Qatar or Australia. So FIFA’s desire to broach new locations could work in Russia’s favour. Certainly Russia see the England Bid as a significant threat as witnessed by their outburst in October. Russian Sports Minister, Vitaly Mutko has had to apologise for comments made by Alexei Sorokin, (General Director of the Russian Bid team). England complained that Russia had broken bidding rules when Sorokin made disparaging comments about London, highlighting the capitals high crime rate and youth alcohol problems. These details emerged from  an interview with the Russian media and appeared to contravene FIFA’s rules about talking about rival bidders. Further fuel was added to the fire after Viacheslav Koloskov (Honorary President of the Russian Football Union), referred to England’s 2018 bid as “absolutely primitive” and “comical”.

Not in Russia’s favour is it record on racism, the fact that the country would need 13 new stadiums for the event and supporting infrastructure. These present the Russian bid as more of a risk then the England 2018 Bid.

England United, The World Invited…..maybe, just maybe that tenner is worth a punt.

World Cup 2018 – 15 days to decision

Fancy a flutter? England to be successful and get the nod from FIFA to host the 2018 World Cup? The wonderfully whiter than white moral guardians that are the English media in the guise of the Sunday Times and the BBC, have done their best to undermine the bid. The Sunday Times through an undercover sting, exposed two executive committee members, Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti, who it is alleged were willing to offer their World Cup votes in return for money for football projects. The two men concerned deny the charges and face a FIFA Ethics Committee hearing this week into the newspaper’s claims. The BBC (in its wisdom) has decided to screen a Panorama special just 3 days before the FIFA awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, into the World Governing body.

It has now left the England Bid team having to write to FIFA distancing themselves from corruption allegations made against football’s world governing body by the British media. The fact is that in a country where there is free speech, then everyone is entitled to their opinion and speak out. The Sunday Times and the BBC would argue that they are merely expressing that right and looking to help FIFA by exposing corruption. However, do these organisations think they will wipe out corruption through what they have done? What happened to investigative journalism? Can stories only be obtained through deceit, or as the Qatar 2022 Committee Member said by “…washing dirty linen, with dirty water…”.

However, the England Bid team will be heartened that Evaluation Reports on the various bids released today, were at least positive on the English proposals. The report released is only an Executive Summary of the full report which is used as part of the decision process. However, a World Cup in England is viewed as “low risk” and was praised in relation to, transport, stadia, IT, security, marketing, and legacy. There are some issues around venue-specific training sites, venue-specific team hotels and training base camp hotels, which numbers wise don’t currently meet the FIFA requirements. Nevertheless, the England camp are saying that theses areas of concern are already in-hand and being discussion with FIFA in terms of resolution.

Of the other Bids, the joint Spain/Portugal bid and that of Russia, are also given a low risk rating, whilst the joint bid from Netherlands/Belgium has received a medium risk assessment.

The England Bid needs all the support it can get right now. Therefore, it is hoped the media in this country are as vigorous with the positive news about the Executive reports as they were negative in the feeding frenzy of the Sunday Times story.