How Russia won the World Cup

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Princes, prime ministers and presidents were sent to boost bids from competing nations – but Fifa was playing its own game.

By Ken Bensinger

On 8 June 2010, three days before the kickoff of the World Cup in South Africa, envoys from Russia and England stood outside a meeting room in Johannesburg’s Sandton Convention Centre, nervously waiting to make their pitch to host the 2018 tournament.

Their audience: elected representatives of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football, or Concacaf. Fifa’s 208 member associations, each governing soccer in their countries, were split between six confederations. Concacaf, with 35 member associations under its umbrella, was one of them, and it, in turn, reported up to Fifa. Its territory stretched from Panama in the south to Canada in the north, and included the US, as well as all of the Caribbean and the sparsely populated South American countries Suriname and Guyana.

Related: The rise of Russia’s neo-Nazi football hooligans

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