Decision day in Zurich for the 2006 World Cup
The venue for the 2006 World Cup is to be announced on Thursday at the Zurich headquarters of international football's governing body, Fifa. South Africa is the favourite, ahead of Germany.
The Swiss president of Fifa, Sepp Blatter, will announce which of the four candidates - South Africa, Germany, England and Morocco - have been successful.
Sports officials from all four countries made final presentations on Wednesday to the 24-person Fifa executive committee.
Sources in Zurich said balloting might be very close, and up to three rounds of voting might be necessary before one of the candidate countries achieved an absolute majority. One official said Blatter might even have to deliver the casting vote.
South Africa has emerged as the favourite, despite worries about security and infrastructure. It would be the first African nation to host the prestigious and lucrative competition.
Its position was strengthened after Brazil pulled out of the race on Monday. Under a reported agreement, Brazil will throw its weight behind the South African candidacy in return for African support if Brazil puts in a bid to host the 2010 World Cup.
Germany is seen as the main challenge, and the German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, paid a brief visit to Zurich on Wednesday in an attempt to strengthen his country's position. Germany also has the support of the European football governing body, Uefa.
Despite an impassioned plea to Fifa by one of England's greatest players, Sir Bobby Charlton, England's chances are seen as limited.
England mounted a major campaign to host the World Cup for the second time since 1966. But the issue of hooliganism and the behaviour of some fans during the recent European Championships are expected to be counter-productive.
The second African candidate, Morocco, has been regarded as a rank outsider since announcing its candidacy.
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