South Africa's hopes of winning the bitter battle to host the 2006 World Cup were boosted on Monday when Brazil announced that, they were pulling out of the race.
Their decision now pits two African countries - South Africa and Morocco - against two European countries - Germany and England.
Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Ricardo Teixeira forecast an easy win for South Africa.
"South Africa will win, possibly in the first round," announced Teixeira.
"We will vote for South Africa and in return they will support us in 2010," he added.
South African bid leader Danny Jordaan was clearly delighted with the news from Rio.
"Certainly we are very happy that there is now a single focus between Africa and Europe and not a third continent involved in the contest. Now it is a question of whether FIFA gives Europe 10 World Cups and Africa nothing," said Jordaan.
But Jordaan stressed that despite the boost from Brazil, the South African campaign would go on right to the end on Thursday when FIFA's 24-man executive committee vote on 2006.
"South Africa's 2006 campaign is taking nothing for granted and will continue to press its case until the very last moment," he said.
The news of Brazilian support for South Africa is gloomy news for both England and Germany.
England face humiliation on Thursday as they can only count on two votes. Germany are hoping to pick up the eight European votes once England are ruled out, and the support of New Zealand's Charlie Dempsey, but they are struggling to gather the four other votes needed to reach the magic number 13.
South Africa only need 12 votes as FIFA president Sepp Blatter carries a casting vote and he has made it clear both publicly and privately that he favors South Africa.
Sources have confirmed to AFP that, the deal was brokered between the African Football Confederation (CAF) and the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL).
"South Africa, for now, will not have a member on the FIFA executive committee when the 2010 vote is taken in 2004. Brazil are not going to give away their vote unless they are sure of African support for 2010 and that can only come from CAF, who has four seats on the executive committee," said the source.
Morocco at present can only muster three to four votes and are likely to be knocked out in the second round but there are growing reports that pressure is being put on the North Africans to withdraw and throw their weight behind South Africa and a united African bid.
But with only three days before the vote there is no sign of Morocco backing down in what is their third straight attempt to win the richest prize in football – (AFP)
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