Moroccans were shocked by the failure of their country's fourth bid to host the championship.

People were glued to their television sets at home, in cafes and even at hospital wards when Sepp Blatter, the president of world soccer's governing body FIFA, announced that South Africa had been awarded the first World Cup on African soil.

"We are saddened because we strongly fancied our chances this time and we realise now that we probably had to be a bit more realistic," said Rashid Moumni, a 30-year old accountant.

King Muhammad congratulated South African President Thabo Mbeki on the win, while Communication Minister Nabil Bin Abd Allah told reporters it was "a victory for the whole African continent. Morocco contributed greatly in this".

"We are saddened because we strongly fancied our chances this time and we realise now that we probably had to be a bit more realistic"

Rashid Moumni,
Moroccan football fan

While Moroccans acknowledged that weak infrastructure had eroded their chances, the majority believed they deserved to host the event since Morocco was the first African country to bid for the finals.

Disappointment

The kingdom missed out on the 1994 World Cup to the United States, to France in 1998 and in the last vote for the 2006 finals which were awarded to Germany.

Meanwhile, Egyptians were disappointed but not surprised their country lost out to South Africa, saying their bid was strong but the vote may have been driven by emotions.

Officials and ordinary Egyptians joined together in wishing South Africa success in hosting the championships, saying a good competition would create more chances for Africa to host the tournament in the future.

"Egypt had the best (presentation) file but politics and emotions won," said Ihab Shalaby, a member of Egypt's bid committee.

He said the role of former president Nelson Mandela helped win the vote for South Africa, which controversially lost the race to host the 2006 finals to Germany by just one vote.

Egyptians in Cairo added the weather in June, when the 2010 World Cup will probably start, may have weighed against the country.

Footballing history

"Egypt had the best (presentation) file but politics and emotions won"

Ihab Shalaby,
Egypt bid committee member

Egypt was pinning its hopes on its political stability, the country's developed tourism infrastructure and its long history in the sport.

The FIFA inspection team said Egypt had the potential to stage an "excellent" World Cup but suffered from a lack of stadiums.

"I am very disappointed, not because South Africa will host the World Cup but because choosing it was not based on objective foundations," said Adly al-Qie, secretary general of the Egyptian Football Federation.

"It seems that there were other issues, not sporting issues, that changed the direction towards South Africa," he said.

Officials had hoped for an economic boost from hosting the tournament, saying it would have created at least half a million jobs in a country of 70 million where unemployment is high.