Havelange backs Japan

WORLD soccer boss Joao Havelange highlighted Japan as a leading contender to stage the first World Cup of the next century.

The president of FIFA said in an interview with a French newspaper that Asia was a growth area for the sport - and Japan was well-placed to stage the tournament in 2002.

Japan's candidacy will be strengthened by the development of the country's new GBP20 billion professional league, the J.League.