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International Soccer
FIFA continues to tackle new frontiers

By Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Put a blank map of the world in front of the average person and chances are you will get a blank stare if you ask them to point out the country of Qatar.

But 12 years from now, the eyes of the entire world will be focused on the tiny Arab nation that is as big as about the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined.

That is because on Thursday in Zurich, Switzerland, it was announced that Qatar, not the mighty United States or Australia, would play host to the 2022 World Cup.

Just a few months ago it seemed laughable that a nation like Qatar, with its sweltering temperatures and lack of stadiums, posed a serious threat to the bid of the USA, which has basically everything required to host the event already in place.

However, as the announcement neared, Qatar emerged as the favorite of the bookmakers to land the World Cup. And maybe we shouldn't be surprised considering that the build-up to the announcement was filled with allegations that votes were being sold and undercover investigations were being conducted to delve deeper into these backroom agreements.

Two members of FIFA's executive committee were caught trying to sell their votes, and were subsequently stripped of them, while various European media outlets accused three more FIFA members of receiving secret payments.

The whole affair has had more twists and turns than a good episode of CSI, while Russia's selection as the hosts of the 2018 World Cup also came as quite a surprise.

England's bid to host the 2018 event also seemed like a sure thing, considering that the World Cup has not been held in the sport's birthplace since 1966.

But whether it was the investigations conducted by the British media into vote selling that turned off the rest of the committee, or just the fact that English cuisine falls a bit below par, it will be at least 70 years between World Cups for England.

Even more alarming is the fact that England, not joint bids from Portugal/Spain and Belgium/Netherlands, was the first bid to be eliminated.

According to research done by FIFA, the bids from both the USA and England would likely be the most profitable for their respective years.

But instead of going with a sure thing, FIFA chose to stage the first World Cup in eastern Europe as well as the first to take place in the Middle East rather than using repeat sites, which continues to show the organizations willingness to gamble.

The USA hosted its first event in 1994, while the World Cup also made its first journey into Asia in 2002 with Japan and South Korea co-hosting.

South Africa's choice as hosts of the 2010 event was seen as a major gamble, while Brazil in 2014 is looking more and more like a risky undertaking.

Only three of the 12 stadiums for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar have been built, while Russia's national team plays on an artificial surface at the Luzhniki Stadium, which is an indication that many grounds around the country will be in need of some major overhauls.

It would appear that FIFA seems to relish a challenge, or maybe it is going out of its way to prove that it is a "not-for-profit" organization, as has been stated in the past.

Either way, FIFA continues to tackle new frontiers, and expand our knowledge of geography in the process.

Comments? Criticism? Applause?
Contact Tim Keeble at tkeeble@sportsnetwork.com.

Follow Tim Keeble on Twitter and Facebook.

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