ZURICH -- Landon Donovan, star forward for the U.S. and part of the U.S. contingent in Zurich, knows the deal. If FIFA goes by the best technical bid, the U.S. lands the 2022 World Cup. Should the 22 executive committee members base matters on other criteria, Australia or Qatar will get the nod instead.
"If they're looking purely at the strength of the bid, then we would be the logical choice," Donovan said hours before Thursday's vote in Zurich. "It just depends where they're at."
Ah, yes. Qatar and Australia, never having hosted a World Cup, excite FIFA, even if Qatar is too hot and too small and Oz presents headaches for European and American television markets due to the time difference. Unlike Qatar, though, Australia's infrastructure is solid and it has a history of staging sizable sporting events such as the Olympics and Commonwealth Games.
The U.S.'s tireless bid chairman, Sunil Gulati, has continued his diligence in Zurich as time runs out, working deep into the night to drum up support. Donovan, Gulati, President Clinton and Morgan Freeman were among those who formally presented the U.S. case Wednesday. The actual delivery could have been better.
Donovan was relaxed as the vote approached at a convention center near the airport, away from the U.S.'s base at a downtown hotel.
"I'm pretty zen about it," Donovan said. "We've done as much as we can at this point."
Donovan, who enjoyed a fruitful stint at Everton this year, wasn't necessarily backing England's 2018 bid. He thought any host chosen -- the list includes Russia, and dual bids from Spain and Portugal, and the Netherlands and Belgium -- would perform admirably.
England, Russia and the Netherlands-Belgium flashed fine presentations Thursday, but the Iberians appeared to stutter.
"I think any of the European countries are going to put on an incredible World Cup," Donovan said. "That's been proven time and time again, in France and Germany. Obviously, it's been a long time for England, so that certainly would be exciting. And then I think Russia would be a very intriguing place to go. We all know about Spain and Portugal, and Holland and Belgium and how well run their leagues are and how passionate they are about football."