Japan’s bid is sound, but…
February 1, 2010: Several of the countries bidding to stage the 2018 or 2022 World Cup could hold the event at the drop of a hat.
One of them, of course, is Japan, as the stadiums, infrastructure and fan base are all in place to guarantee a smooth and successful tournament.
However, this doesn’t mean I think it’s a good idea for Japan to be bidding again, so soon after co-hosting the 2002 World Cup with Korea (ditto Korea, who are bidding only for 2022 this time).
So while Japan’s bid is sound, and has the high-profile backing of, among others, former national team coaches Philippe Troussier, Zico and Ivica Osim, I think their chances of victory are slim at best – much less than Tokyo’s chances were of being awarded the 2016 Olympic Games.
First, the 2018 World Cup is surely going to Europe, as football’s richest continent will not have staged it since Germany 2006. FIFA President Sepp Blatter said as much recently, so it really looks like a lost cause for the other continents. While England, the 1966 host, is regarded as the favourite to win 2018, Russia has emerged as a dark horse and must not be ruled out from pulling off a major surprise when FIFA votes in December.
Japan’s best chance, then, would be 2022, but again I think there are countries more deserving of Japan; countries who have not held it before and who would open a new market, a new frontier, for FIFA.
Specifically I am thinking of Australia, and I would like to see the Aussies awarded 2022. This is a great sporting nation, and they would stage a fantastic World Cup. Critics talk of a lack of football tradition in Australia (or maybe “soccer” is the more appropriate word on this occasion) compared to rugby league, rugby union, Aussie Rules football and cricket, but the sports-loving locals in the big cities would really embrace the tournament and turn it into one long festival.
Having attended the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, and travelled around to watch Japan in Canberra and Brisbane, the atmosphere was incredible, and I am sure this would be replicated for the World Cup but on a much grander scale – involving thousands and thousands of visitors from overseas.
I think Japan has a no-risk bid, but honestly I don’t know why they are having another go so soon after 2002, and why they think they can win.
If they are awarded the 2018 or even the 2022 World Cup, it will be a bigger surprise than if Takeshi Okada’s boys do actually reach the semi-finals in South Africa.
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