Australia hope to repeat German supermodel lure

ZURICH - Australia is hoping that supermodel Elle Macpherson will help win over all-male FIFA executive committee members in its quest to host the 2022 World Cup, just as Claudia Schiffer did for the Germany 2006 bid.

FIFA will choose the host nations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Zurich on Thursday.

Australia was the first bidder for 2022 to make its final presentation to 22 executive members of soccer's world governing body, followed by South Korea, Qatar, United States and Japan.

Macpherson joined Frank Lowy, chairman of Australian's football federation, on stage after his presentation, saying it was hard to capture enthusiasm for the tournament back home.

"This is my first prize. The second prize will be the World Cup in 2022," Lowy said as he clasped Macpherson's hand.

Schiffer's appearance in Zurich in 2000 was credited with helping Germany secure the 2006 World Cup against stiff competition from Nelson Mandela-backed South Africa.

Other Australia stars like swimmer Ian Thorpe, Olympic 400 metres champion Cathy Freeman and actors Paul Hogan and Cate Blanchett made cameo appearances in a film showed to FIFA. Singer Kylie Minogue was a notable Australian exception.

Only the United States could match the Australian bid's celebrity glitz, with actor Morgan Freeman and former President Bill Clinton in Zurich leading the American delegation.

"The world of the World Cup is the world that we want to live in," Freeman said in his trademark gravelly voice although he fluffed his lines by missing a page of his script before he introduced a video message from President Barack Obama.

"I promise you if we are successful, America will make the world proud," Obama said as he clutched a football.

Manchester United's Park Ji-Sung spoke in favour of South Korea's bid, while Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser, the wife of the Qatari ruler, lent a touch of glamour to the Middle East nation's presentation.

"A World Cup in Qatar shows it is possible to bring East and West together," she said.

Zurich has already rolled out the red carpet for the England bid team, led by the recently engaged Prince William. The Swiss press has speculated whether he might bring fiancee Kate Middleton along and take her skiing afterwards to celebrate.

Dozens of celebrities have also sent messages of support for the England bid, due to present on Thursday along with other 2018 hopeful Russia as well as joint bids from Spain and Portugal and the Netherlands and Belgium.

Despite the fact that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will not be in Zurich, his country's bid will be supported by opera singer Anna Netrebko and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

Meanwhile, the Spain/Portugal and Netherlands/Belgium bids will be supported in Zurich by the leaders of all four countries as well as leading players of the past.