Brits, Russians, Dutch Go to War — For the World Cup

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Philippe Desmazes / AFP / Getty

David Beckham

Before the first whistle is even blown at this year’s World Cup in South Africa, countries are already lined up to see who will get the tournament in 2018 and 2022, and competition is likely to be as tense as a penalty kick.

A slew of countries — Australia, England, Russia, Spain, Portugal, the United States and Belgium and the Netherlands (bidding jointly) — all showed up Friday at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland to grasp for a chance to host the 2018 tournament. Japan, South Korea and Qatar are seeking to host the 2022 games. Brazil was chosen to host the 2014 games last year.

With FIFA said to favor Europe for the 2018 games, England sought the most attention by bringing in former captain David Beckham to present the nation’s bid. “As a player, you always dream of playing in the World Cup in your own country,” Beckham said as he handed over England’s bid book. “So you’ll see the emotions and the passions that this will actually bring to us and to our players and to our fans.”

Not to be outdone, Russia wants to upset England’s dream of hosting the Cup with a promise of 16 stadiums in 13 cities and have even released a sleek new bidding video. Truth is, it’s looking good for the Russians because even FIFA president Sepp Blatter has reportedly called the Russian bid “remarkable.”

Still, European neighbors Belgium and the Netherlands decided to team up to get a shot at the games. Dutch soccer icons Ruud Gullit, Johann Cruyff and Belgium championship midfielder Paul Van Himst actually rode bicycles into FIFA’s headquarters and offered to give 2 million bikes to soccer fans as incentive.

With all the fanfare and football jockeying, there will still be a lengthy wait. The 24-member FIFA executive ruling committee will cast their votes for the host countries on Dec. 2.