“Give Russia a chance: you’ll never regret it” – sports minister
The Russian team was the last to reveal their trump cards on Thursday. They were the final 2018 candidates, following Belgium/the Netherlands, Spain/Portugal and England, to present their case face-to-face with FIFA's 22 executive committee members. Though perhaps not as emotional as the English, their presentation seemed the most informative and convincing.The Netherlands and Belgium
The Holland/Belgium joint bid was the first candidate for the 2018 World Cup to make their bid presentation at FIFA headquarters in Zurich on Thursday.
It was back to the future as their presentation began with some video trickery making it appear that Johann Cruyff was predicting that the World Cup would be hosted by the Netherlands and Belgium in 2018.
Then bid president Ruud Gullit stressed the compact nature of the two countries:
"Number one – we are a compact bid. Our limited size is our real strength, beneficial for players, fans and, of course, for the visitors."
The Netherlands/Belgium team have been keen to stress the environmental friendliness of their bid and also made a special accent on the fun and enjoyment always available in the two countries.
"Believe me, it's great fun in our countries – the bars, the restaurants, the terraces, the pubs – every host city has thousands of them," stressed the bid ambassador, Jean-Marie Pfaff.
Former Russia coach Guus Hiddink also spoke in support of his homeland’s bid. Moments after Ruud Gullit, Hiddink also noted that the size of the countries involved is the most important factor for footballers and coaches.
"One of the things in the Holland/Belgium bid I think is time. It's very compact – as a coach, preparing your team you want to go back after the game as soon as possible," he said.
Gullit finished by highlighting the fact that all the countries surrounding Holland and Belgium had already hosted a World Cup – and as founding members of FIFA, they deserved their chance.
Spain and Portugal
The Iberian bid presentation was done against the background of the World Cup, which Spain claimed in South Africa last summer. The simple move was designed to stress who is currently the best in the sport and who deserves the 2018 WC most. However, the bid team did not choose to have any former or current football players helping to make their presentation.
The bid’s focus was on facilities, with lots of details highlighting the infrastructure that exists in the countries.
"If this bid wins, well it will have a European organization carried out by two European countries – but it will have more than that. What I am referring to is a bid that will shine out. It's a bid that goes above and beyond our two countries – basically, we will look out to all continents," Prime Minister of Portugal Jose Socrates stated.
"First and foremost we offer a lot of motivation. We want to organize the World Cup in 2018, but we also offer infrastructural capacities and special conditions in our countries which imply that we could organize a World Cup next month if it were necessary," said Spanish PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
All bid teams were given 30 minutes in which to work their powers of persuasion on FIFA's executive committee, but the Iberian team overran by more than ten minutes. That was due to an impassioned speech by Angel Maria Villar – Iberian bid president and a member of FIFA's executive committee, who expressed his love and support for the sport’s governing body:
"FIFA is a clean institute, FIFA works honestly for football and for the world and all of my colleagues here present you are all honest hard working and care about football."
The English bid was presented in style by British Prime Minister David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham.
The main accent was made on England's pledge to invest in football's global development.
"It's not just about us," Prince William said. "I give you an assurance that England is committed to playing its full and proper role in developing football internationally."
Echoing the Holland/Belgium presentation, Prince William also emphasized the party atmosphere that fans would enjoy in England. He referenced his marriage to Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey next year, which has captivated interest around the world.
"Our dream is to stage a World Cup that makes you, your grandchildren and everyone in football truly proud," said Beckham.
British Prime Minister David Cameron used his speech to highlight how the diversity that exists in England will make the country a welcoming environment for fans and players.
Bid chief executive Andy Anson reminded FIFA President Sepp Blatter that he has said England could host the World Cup almost immediately.
Most of the stadiums that would host matches in 2018 are already in place, including Wembley Stadium and Old Trafford.
England used the video presentations in its showcase to demonstrate the success of the Premier League, showing fans around the world wearing replica shirts while watching matches.
The Russian 2018 World Cup bid delegation called on FIFA to help change their country's history. Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov promised that hosting the World Cup would help build a “completely different nation.”
"Without your help we will achieve our goals – but with your help, we will achieve much more. It's going to be completely different nation, open to the entire world," he stressed.
Russia’s Sports Minister, who is also a FIFA executive committee member, Vitaly Mutko, explained how important Thursday’s FIFA decision is for the country.
"Our bid is a national priority for the Russian nation – if you give us the chance, FIFA, you will never regret it. You will be proud of the choice I guarantee it," he said.
The Russian bid is of a staggering scale – encompassing 16 stadiums clumped into four regions and linked by free overland travel.
Current Russian team captain Andrey Arshavin talked about the personal effect football has had on his life and how FIFA can help shape Russia's future:
"You are leaders of the world of football. You are entrusted to make the decision which will echo for a generation. Believe in us, believe in Russia and we will play as one team with FIFA," he promised.