World Cup 2006 - the other contenders
Clear favorite of Fifa President Sepp Blatter. The stadiums, infrastructure and organizational experience - from the rugby World Cup and African Nations Cup - are in place. However, the spiraling crime rate is a huge disincentive.
Strong organizational skills and excellent transport and communications. Many stadiums need substantial rebuilding and several new ones are planned. Some clout within Fifa, but no visible support from Blatter. The rioting of German fans at Lens in France 98 will not have helped.
Unrivaled playing record in the competition gives them a moral claim, but not a practical one. Few arenas are up to scratch. Organizational skills are lacking and financing the bid will be a problem.
Respectable performances in past World Cups. Bidders in 1994 and 1998, they already have some stadiums that reach the requirements and boast good hotels and fair communications. Low-key bid, which will not be helped by its proximity to the 1998 hosts, France.
Amid the clutter of the England 2006 offices in a tiny lane behind the Football Association's London headquarters, Hazel Ruscoe is putting the finishing touches to the 45,000-word bid document that must be delivered to Fifa, the football world governing body, by the end of the month.
Ruscoe, the bid submission manager of England 2006, has been hunched over her keyboard for 12 months agonizing over how to strike the correct emotional chord, prompting readers to reach for a Kleenex rather than a sick bucket.
"There has been plenty of rewriting," she admits, "and we are keen to show that we are looking as much toward the future as back at the past."
This is a reference to the opening point of England's case to host the 2006 World Cup - that England is The Home Of Football. Unfortunately, considering the decision to urge Manchester United not to defend the FA Cup and to play in the world club championships instead, the second line of the document boasts that "today, the FA Cup continues to be the most prestigious domestic club competition in the world."
Oh dear. Alec McGiven, however, who is head of the bid, denies that it is an own goal. He says: "It is very important for us to be represented at a Fifa event in front of the 24 voting delegates so close to the decision. It is unreasonable of us to ask the world to come to us if we cannot be bothered going to them."
Anyway, McGiven likes to think of the bid as a roller-coaster ride in which you must accept that you cannot always live with your heads touching the clouds. The resignations of the FA chief executive Graham Kelly and chairman Keith Wiseman after allegations of influence peddling was a setback and the rioting of England fans in Marseille during last year's World Cup almost brought it off the rails altogether. McGiven says: "I thought at the time that if we had another week of that, the bid would be dead."
England's bid document will contain such detailed information as the size of the toilet facilities at the Stadium of Light and the fact that each seat at Elland Road, the Leeds United ground, is secured to the concrete terracing by four half-inch (1.3cm) bolts. But like every modern election, it will be decided not by policies and promises but by who presses the flesh best.
Here, England has a head start, albeit a bald one, in Sir Bobby Charlton, who has been touring the world with Sports Minister Tony Banks, making friends with the 24-man electorate. McGiven says: "Bobby is a fantastic ambassador and he is seen as a gentleman. It is staggering how well he is known in the world. It is still true that, in some countries, the only two words of English they know are Bobby Charlton."
England's rivals Germany have now rushed Franz Beckenbauer into his usual sweeper position, hoping that the only two words of German understood in some countries are Der Kaiser. It is a fascinating new contest between the old rivals from 1966, this time fighting for the right to stage a World Cup. The bidding war will be won not on the playing fields of England or Germany but by the quality of the small talk over the champagne and canapes.
England 2006 pulled another masterstroke when the 16 delegates brought over to the FA Cup final were told they would be having lunch at home with Prince Charles. The lunch had taken two years to arrange and coincidentally, fell on the same day that dinner had been arranged with Tony Blair at No10. They were "tremendously impressed" says McGiven.
The crowning moment of the bid in propaganda terms, however, came when the delegates watched the rival fans from Newcastle and Manchester United peacefully walking up Wembley Way together. It must have been an enormous shock for those who had read a South African newspaper report following Manchester United's FA Cup win over Liverpool five months ago, claiming that buildings were ablaze afterwards, pubs and shops closed and all police leave cancelled. In fact, there was one arrest for a public order offence.
This piece of mischief led Banks to make a "don't mention the war" call to the South African sports minister, reminding him that England had agreed not to make an issue of the carjackings and murders on the streets of Johannesburg.
The supposedly open support of the Fifa president Sepp Blatter for South Africa's bid may prove the biggest worry for England 2006. But they also believe that Blatter may be playing a political game, keeping South Africa sweet while having no intention of handing them the prize.
Meanwhile, Ruscoe continues to tap at her keyboard, knowing that a pause will follow her delivery. A tear-off countdown chart on the wall reminds her: 301 days to Fifa's decision. What have you done today to bring the World Cup to England?