Finals give economic boost
South Korea and Japan, the joint hosts of the World Cup finals, believe their huge expenditure on the tournament will pay dividends in the future for both their soccer and economic prospects.
South Korea's commerce minister, Shin Kook-hwan, said on Friday he expected the country to earn $9 billion in extra production, create 350,000 new jobs and attract 340,000 tourists as a result of co-hosting the tournament.
But he said the true value of the investment would be in presenting the country as a new commercial hub for Asia. The country also gained from its hosting of the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
"We will invite chief executives from multinational companies to promote direct investment into Korea and to develop Korea as the hub of Asia's economy, education, culture and entertainment," he said.
However, while the world prepares to have a close look at Korea, the country has not yet entirely immersed itself in football fever. It emerged on Friday that around 200,000 tickets remain unsold for games in the country.
Most would go on sale via the Internet from May 1, organisers said.
By contrast, Japanese tournament director Junji Ogura said that there had been almost 17 million applications in the various rounds of ticket sales for games in Japan and that, apart from a few corporate packages, most were sold.
Like the Koreans, Japan sees the main benefit of hosting the event as its long-term legacy.
Japanese tournament director Junji Ogura said the estimated $4.5 billion spent on stadia, transport, hotels and other facilities since 1996 was an investment in the future.
"We realised when we were bidding for the World Cup that there was a lack of first-class stadia and sports facilities in Japan," Ogura said.
"The World Cup gives us a perfect opportunity to solve that problem, which in turn will help raise the standard of sport in the country."
JAWOC are also confident, Ogura added, that they will be able to show a profit and said the Japanese economy should be boosted by about $25 billion.
Asked about the possible damage Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi could have done to relations between the joint hosts with his visit last weekend to a Tokyo shrine that honours convicted war criminals as well as war dead, Ogura was equally upbeat.
"Politics and the World Cup are two separate issues and we have been working hard with Korean organisers to present a united front," he said.
Koizumi caused outrage in South Korea and other Asian countries when he paid a surprise visit to the Yasukuni shrine, dedicated to the Japanese war dead, including a number of Class A war criminals.
On the playing front there were a series of suggestions for coaches putting the final touches to their 23-man squads.
Zinedine Zidane says he cannot believe England have such a wealth of midfielders that his Real Madrid team mate Steve McManaman cannot make it into the team, let alone the squad.
He says England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson will regret not picking the former Liverpool player who is currently out of favour internationally.
More advice for Eriksson came from Liverpool assistant boss Phil Thompson, who says Jamie Carragher should make the trip, especially with the likely absence of regular right back Gary Neville.
Neville, like Manchester United team mate David Beckham, has a broken bone in his foot. Beckham's recovery could be speeded-up by a royal appointment, however.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth suggested that her own grand-daughter Zara Phillips, recently qualified as a physiotherapist, could come to the nation's aid.
German reserve goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has urged national coach Rudi Voeller to pick veteran midfielder Andy Moeller, despite the 34-year-old winning the last of his caps three years ago.