Like the other three candidates, including Swiss incumbent Blatter, Dutch FA president Van Praag and former Portugal forward Figo have never let on how many of the 209 votes he expected to garner at the May 29 election.

The only promise of a vote Van Praag ever revealed was from the former Dutch colony perched on the north of South America, which in football terms is part of Central America and the Caribbean.

The fact that his only confirmed backing came from a country with strong Dutch connections hinted that Van Praag was not making much of an impression outside his comfort zone.

Figo, meanwhile, got plenty of public support from players but it was not so forthcoming from the national assocations who vote at the election. In announcing his withdrawal on Thursday, Van Praag said he would throw his weight behind Prince Ali Bin Hussein of Jordan.

But it is unlikely to matter whether Blatter faces one, two or three opponents. They 79-year-old is expected to sweep home for a fifth mandate with the vast majority of votes from Africa, North and Central America and the Caribbean, Asia and South America.

Only Europe, which holds 53 of the 209 votes, has opposed Blatter and, although some other associations may break ranks, they are unlikely to cause more than a small chink in his majority.

Outside Europe, the scandals which have engulfed world soccer's governing body over hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups have not registered to the same extent, if at all.

On the contrary, federations outside Europe see FIFA as the force which keeps the game truly global in the face of the growing financial power of a handful of elite European clubs and leagues.

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