THE recriminations over England's humiliating defeat in their attempt to win the 2018 World Cup began last night after the bid was eliminated in the first round with just two votes.
Russia won the vote by FIFA's 22-man executive committee in Zurich - leaving England battered, baffled, and complaining of broken promises.
FIFA released the voting figures which showed England won just a single vote apart from Britain's FIFA vice-president Geoff Thompson. In the first round even expected whipping boys Holland/Belgium secured four, Spain/Portugal seven and Russia nine.
Russia, who now have huge stadium building project on their hands, then won an outright majority in the second round of voting.
In the 2022 contest, Qatar beat the USA in the final round of voting - another controversial decision for a desert country half the size of Wales, with no stadia and where June temperatures can top 50 deg C. Thompson said: "I cannot believe what has happened, and I am naturally very, very disappointed. The votes that were promised clearly didn't materialise.
"I never imagined we would go out in the first round."
FIFA's decision stunned the England bid team who had allowed themselves to become hopeful that the quality of the bid and the lobbying by Prince William, Prime Minister David Cameron and David Beckham had put themselves in a promising position.
Asked if members had "looked him in the eye and lied", bid chief executive Andy Anson admitted: "I am not going to name names because that is not fair on individuals but clearly some people did - we thought we had seven or eight votes."
England 2018 leaders last month said that the bid had been damaged by a backlash against corruption investigations into FIFA members by BBC Panorama and the Sunday Times, a view backed up by London mayor Boris Johnson.
He said: "Clearly there was a feeling in the England 2018 team that all the furore and all the hoo-hah in the media damaged our chances.
"It's very hard to draw any other conclusion after not progressing beyond the first round.
Johnson added pointedly: "FIFA can't last in it's current form."
Beckham however said he hoped the suggestions about the anti-England backlash over the media were wrong.
The England midfielder said: "I've heard the rumours that we lost due to the British press. I hope that isn't the reason. I believe in a free press and they are incredibly supportive of the game I love."
Questions are sure to be asked how England 2018 performed so badly - even in the failed 2006 bid they managed five first-round votes.
Lord Mawhinney, the former Football League chairman and bid vice-chairman, hinted that the FIFA process needs looking at.
"Questions do emerge," said Mawhinney.
"There's a temptation to say all sorts of things, but not tonight.
"It seems to be a legitimate question if the process should be different next time."
Premier League chairman Richard Scudamore said the fact England had so many top-class stadia already in place appeared to have counted against them.
Scudamore said: "Taking the World Cup to two new territories and, in Qatar's case, mentioning Arab countries - that was the driver.
"They have decided to take the World Cups to developing areas.
"What's gone against us is not having to build 20 new stadia. It almost feels as if we are on standby for when somebody can't host it.
"That's all very well - but on that basis we will never get it."
Sport the biggest loser says Wilmots GUUS HIDDINK believes the decision to hand the 2018 World Cup to Russia will be hugely beneficial for the country.
Turkey boss Hiddink was in Zurich for the announcement as part of the bid team for Holland and Belgium. But having coached the Russians between 2006 and 2010, he is aware how much this will mean for the nation.
"I was in Zurich to promote the Holland/Belgium bid so I am disappointed that Russia has won," he said. "But if anyone other than us had to win it, I would have chosen Russia.
"This is a huge boost for football there. For all those beautiful stadiums and for the Russian economy. It could very well be that many international companies will invest there now."
But Belgium's assistant coach, Marc Wilmots, was critical of the decision to hand Russia and Qatar, who will stage the 2022 event, the hosting rights.
"Russia is a political choice, Qatar an economic one," he said. "We could say that the biggest loser here is sport in the allocation of the World Cups.
"Everyone knows from the start there will be more losers than winners. We fall into that first category but we must remain sporting and accept our defeat with dignity."
David Beckham looks dejected last night as (right) Russia deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov holds the World Cup