Japan to stage World Cup final

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The Independent Online
Fifa, world football's governing body, is set to confirm the sport's worst-kept secret on Saturday when it formally annouces that Japan will host the World Cup final in 2002.

It will also confirm that South Korea, jointly hosting the tournament with their Asian neighbours, will stage the opening match of the finals in six years' time.

Fifa attempted to keep secret recommendations of the World Cup 2002 Study Group amid farcical scenes in Zurich a month ago, when its vice- president, Lennart Johansson, told 100 reporters that no information about the finals would be announced until this weekend.

However, most of the details Fifa wanted to keep secret until endorsed by this weekend's executive committee meeting leaked out of Asia within hours.

A 33-point agenda will be set before the executive committee which is meeting, somewhat ironically, in Barcelona - where Spain won the 1992 Olympic football tournament.

The irony will not be lost on the Spaniards because Fifa is considering a proposal to abolish the tournament, which predates the World Cup by 30 years and was for three decades regarded as the unofficial world championship.

Among many other items, Fifa will be looking at ground safety, players' agents and a new initiative for the World Club Cup, which has been played between the champions of Europe and South America 35 times since 1960.

There is a possibility that the champion clubs of other confederations, including Asia, Africa and North America, could take part in an expanded tournament.

Two days before Fifa is due to meet in Barcelona, the executive committee of European football's governing body, Uefa, holds its own session in Tenerife.

Uefa officials, like Fifa's, are expected to give their proposals for changes in the transfer system in the wake of last year's Bosman ruling, the future of national teams and of domestic leagues.

The European body will also announce the venues for this season's European Cup and European Cup-Winners' Cup finals and that the Czech Republic will represent Europe at next year's inaugural Confederations Cup for national teams in Saudi Arabia.

Germany, who should represent Uefa as the reigning European champions after their victory over the Czech Republic at Wembley this summer, have made it clear they will not compete in the tournament during their league season's mid-winter break.

Uefa will also hear a proposal from the German Football Association that the number of qualification matches for the 2000 European Championships should be cut, leaving more dates available for lucrative international friendlies.