Germany pulled-off a sensational victory on Thursday when they were awarded the 2006 World Cup over pre-race favorites South Africa.
The 24-man executive committee of FIFA, football's governing body, in the end rejected South Africa's plea that it was time for the African continent to be given the most glittering prize in football.
Instead they went for the security and tradition offered by Germany, who last hosted the tournament in 1974 when they were West Germany and part of a divided Europe.
The two other candidates, England and Morocco, fell by the way side - going out in the early rounds.
Morocco was the first to fall when they only managed three votes.
England collected five, Germany 10 and South Africa six.
But England's support crumbled in the second round and they crashed out with only two votes.
Germany and South Africa were neck and neck with 11 votes each and in the final and decisive third round at FIFA House, high on the hill overlooking Lake Zurich, Germany snatched a last minute winner 12-11 when Oceania member Charlie Dempsey abstained.
Moroccan bid president Driss Benhima blamed FIFA president Sepp Blatter for the defeat.
"It was not South Africa that beat us. It was outside forces - the FIFA president," he complained.
"They tried to help South Africa by pressurizing the South Americans and it did not help us one bit," he added.
Germany's last gasp success was clear 20 minutes before Blatter made the official announcement.
Bidding president Franz Beckenbauer came into the Zurich conference center ahead of Blatter, beaming and smiling and hugging German journalists.
In contrast, South Africa's team, lead by Danny Jordann, looked somber.
Germany's victory was achieved after Asia's four executive members agreed late Tuesday night to vote in a block for Germany according to sources close to the campaign.
Blatter had a 5 a.m. meeting on Thursday with the four in a laps gasp bid to convince them to switch their support to South Africa but the 63-year Blatter came away empty-handed.
Blatter had been furiously canvassing to bring the World Cup to the African continent for the first time and Thursday's vote by his executive committee is as much a defeat for Blatter as it is for South Africa.
Blatter stands for reelection in 2002 at the FIFA Congress in Seoul shortly before the start of the 2002 World Cup and the knives will be out for him.
"It is the beginning of the end for Blatter." one senior FIFA member told AFP shortly after the vote – (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)