May 17, 2010

TOKYO (Reuters) -- Tipping the scales at 7.3 kilograms, Japan's candidate file for the 2022 World Cup weighed only half of the whopper submitted to FIFA by the United States.

"Perhaps they used thicker paper," Japan's soccer chief Motoaki Inukai told Reuters in an interview on Monday. "I had to get help handing over ours to (FIFA president Sepp Blatter)."

Japan's 'eco-friendlier' bid documents also included plans for live 3D telecasts of matches -- a format that has become very popular as proved by the success of the 3D version of the Hollywood blockbuster Avatar -- allowing viewers to feel like they are on the pitch and to hear the players breathing.

"We feel only Japan can offer this kind of cutting-edge technology," the Japan Football Association (JFA) president said after returning from Zurich.

"Japan has a unique package. Our impression was that FIFA wanted the 2018 World Cup to go to Europe. We felt the chances of the tournament being in Europe twice in a row were not high.

"Therefore Japan's odds would be increased by aiming for 2022. That's why we left 2018 to Europe. That would leave Asia or (the U.S.) in 2022."

As a World Cup bidding storm raged 6,000 miles away, Inukai wore the look of a confident man.

"Japan would have South Korea, Qatar and Australia as competitors in Asia, but we felt our bid was ranked highly by FIFA," he said.

"We felt Japan's experience of co-hosting the 2002 World Cup (with South Korea) and organisational skills were also appreciated."

Inukai awoke to the news his English counterpart David Triesman had resigned following a newspaper sting in which he was taped claiming a Spanish bribery conspiracy.

"It was a surprise -- to be honest I'm bewildered," said Inukai, looking relaxed as sunlight filtered through the blinds of his plush office.

"We felt we were playing catch-up with England as they started their bid campaign so early."

Inukai insisted there would be no financial barriers to staging the World Cup in 2022 if Japan were named as hosts by FIFA in December.

"If Tokyo had won the (2016) Olympic bid it would have simplified things a lot," he said, referring to the construction of an 80,000 capacity stadium required under FIFA rules.

"Osaka raised their hand and have signed off on the stadium so it will be built. If Japan are chosen as World Cup hosts there will be no (financial) concerns at all."

Zurich behind him, Inukai has eyes only for South Africa in the short-term, promising under-fire coach Takeshi Okada his full support at this year's World Cup, which begins on June 11.

"The JFA have not set targets like 1-2-3," he said on the subject of Okada's highly ambitious semi-final goal. "The coach is aiming for the last four. He will get 100 percent back-up.

"Japan will not win World Cup matches on individual skill. They have to play as a team. If they do that then they have the potential to do well."

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