World Cup bid: England's 2018 hopes boosted

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England's improving prospects of hosting the 2018 World Cup received a fillip yesterday when Japan decided to concentrate on securing the 2022 finals having reportedly been informed by Sepp Blatter that the former is destined for Europe.

Russia and England are the only sole competitors for 2018 with Spain/Portugal and Netherlands/Belgium making joint bids. Key figures in the Japanese bid met Blatter, the president of Fifa, in Zurich earlier this week and were told to focus their efforts on 2022.

"President Blatter told us European countries would be involved in a fight to host the 2018 World Cup," said Motoaki Inukai, president of the Japan Football Association. "The atmosphere was that they want to bring the 2018 tournament back to Europe." Fifa will make a final decision in December.

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