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As for the 2018 bidders, Putin made a high-profile trip to Guatemala in 2007 to help secure the 2014 Winter Olympics for Sochi, having announced that trip more than a week in advance. This time, his no-show came only a day ahead of the vote.

Putin said Wednesday he would not go to FIFA headquarters to exert even more pressure on the voters after the corruption allegations of the past weeks. And he called on other international leaders to do likewise.

“As are all fair-minded people, I am very disappointed about the recent allegations against certain FIFA executive committee members,” Putin said. “I view that as unfair competition.”

Recently, a Sunday Times of London sting led to the expulsion of two FIFA executive committee members; a BBC documentary accused others of taking secret payments.

Beckham has been lobbying since his arrival on Tuesday and has met with several executive committee members.

“I’ve known how important it is to keep fighting to the last minute,” said Beckham, the former England captain who now plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Earlier, Prince William worked his charm during his pre-dawn breakfast to make England’s case. And even British Prime Minister David Cameron put himself into shuttle diplomacy, flying in between Zurich and London to mix parliamentary politics with high-profile lobbying.

And after the BBC had raised corruption allegations early this week that were seen as potentially harmful to the bid, another icon of the British media pleaded with FIFA to ignore it.

The Sun tabloid had a huge picture of the World Cup trophy alongside an “Open Letter to the 2018 World Cup Committee.”

“Dear FIFA, The BBC may have given you the false impression that the people of England do not wish to host the World Cup,” the ad read before going to say the whole nation backed the bid.

He did acknowledge that “the presence of the prime minister would have been an additional inspiration.”


AP Sports Writers Graham Dunbar and Rob Harris in Zurich, and Associated Press writer David Nowak in Moscow contributed to this report.