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Qatar plays it cool in pipping USA to World Cup 2022

Sepp Blatter is said to have a keen eye on his legacy when he finally relinquishes his hold on Fifa and he has certainly offered a remarkable first for the 2022 tournament.

The first to be staged in the Middle East and in a country where temperatures can touch 48c in the summer, will be like no other.

The margin of victory for this small country that has little football history — they have never qualified for a World Cup finals and are ranked 113th in the world — came as a surprise.

Having seen off Australia, who managed just a single vote, Japan and Korea, they finally defeated the USA by 14 votes to eight.

“Thank you for believing in us,” said Qatar's Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani afterwards.

“Thank you for having such bold vision.”

Qatar played the perfect campaign, with money no object. Zinedine Zidane, Sir Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola gave their backing, but it was an Englishman who proved the dealmaker.

Mike Lee, who helped London win the Olympics in 2012 and Rio the 2016 Games, worked his backroom magic for a third time.

Whether the world's best footballers will thank him for his efforts come 2022 is open to question. The bid has promised to install air conditioning systems in all its 12 stadiums, nine of which will be new builds. They claim temperature inside grounds can be held at 27c, but that has been widely questioned.

Belfast Telegraph