Japan in need of boost to reach long-range goal
Japan are one of two countries bidding for the right to host the XVIIth tournament, and a first appearance at Wembley is a major publicity coup.
It is also a boost they badly need. Two years ago Japan were considered certainties to win the bid, now South Korea, the other candidate, is closing fast.
The campaign has an edge to it. Japan and Korea have been enemies for centuries and the Japanese treatment of Koreans during the last war left a particularly bitter legacy. While Japan argue that their industrial dominance makes them the obvious first Asian host, the Koreans counter that recognition of their own fast-rising economy would be more inspirational to the region as a whole.
South Korea did put on a very successful Olympics in Seoul in 1988, but Japan feel that nationwide, their technological and transportation capabilities are better. They also have the impressively funded and supported J-League, which Gary Lineker played in.
Both countries have problems with the time difference. Japan is eight hours ahead of Europe and, since European television bankrolls the competition, the assertion at an unconvincing Japanese media-briefing this week that matches would kick off at midday European time seems unlikely.
Until the J-League was formed two years ago, football was very low down the sporting scale in Japan. Even now it ranks behind sumo wrestling and baseball. Unlike South Korea, Japan have never qualified for the World Cup, although they are improving. Japanese age-group teams - the players of 2002 - have a good record and the senior side are Asian champions.
"They would not win it in 2002, but they would be better than America were last year," said Lineker, who is supporting what he regards as "a very strong bid". Fifteen venues are proposed - although, oddly, Tokyo, the capital, is not one of them - with the likely final venue being Yokohama. Most stadiums are, at present, little more than artists' impressions.
The biggest drawback to a memorable World Cup may be Japan's insularity and cost of living. The United States put on a memorable event without a football heritage, but that was partly because almost every country was well-supported. Japan are confident they will sell out most matches, but with low immigration and frightening food and accommodation prices, few spectators will be non-Japanese.
Latest in Sport
How Liverpool can catch Manchester United and secure Champions League football next season
Arsenal transfer news: Arsene Wenger reveals: 'We are not close to signing anybody. We need to lose some players'
Danny Jones: Keighley Cougars half-back dies after cardiac arrest during league game
Chelsea season player ratings: Grading the entire squad of the new Premier League champions
Which celebrities were ringside in Las Vegas to watch Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao?
- 5 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...
£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...
£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...
£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...