High hopes for England bid
England go into Thursday's Fifa vote as genuine contenders to host the 2018 World Cup and you can follow all the events with Sky Sports.
Last Updated: 02/12/10 11:37am
England go into Thursday's Fifa vote to decide the 2018 World Cup venue as favourites to host football's showpiece.
England are now odds-on with Sky Bet after Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin's amazing speech in which he announced he would not travel to Zurich for the vote saw his nation's hopes tumble.
Holland/Belgium are also bidding but are viewed as the outsiders in the secret ballot of the 22 FIFA executive committee members while Spain/Portugal now appear the biggest threat to England's hopes.
The scenario of England facing Spain/Portugal in the final round has been backed up by the Iberian bid's chief executive, Miguel Angel Lopez.
Lopez said: "We are confident, we are not certain. We think we will win, we have eight votes for sure and it looks like it will be against England in the final round."
Putin's absence was in stark contrast to the activities of British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has been in Zurich since Tuesday, along with Prince William and David Beckham, meeting Fifa members.
Cameron even flew back to London for Prime Minister's Questions before returning to Switzerland on Wednesday for more last-minute lobbying, while Prince William finished one meeting after midnight before having breakfast with Nicolas Leoz.
England will have the Prince, Cameron and Beckham as part of their five-man team for Thursday's bid presentation, which can be seen live on Sky Sports News from 10am.
Sports minister Hugh Robertson believes the lobbying and presentations will have an impact in later rounds of voting when the bid with the fewest votes are eliminated.
Robertson said: "If you get your lobbying right over the three days beforehand and you get your presentation right then you have a genuine chance of moving those second and third preference votes. That's going to be the key to winning."
Lord Sebastian Coe, who negotiated London's successful 2012 Olympic bid, is a 2018 board member and has been advising England on tactics
Lord Coe said: "There were IOC delegates who said to me after the vote in Singapore that they thought they were voting one way, and they actually shifted their ground during the presentations.
"I think it can happen here. There may well be ExCo members who think they are absolutely fixed in their view, and this is where they are going to go but a really strong presentation, with a really clear message and some emotional appeal can make a difference."