|Japan fans show their support during the 2010 World Cup qualifiers in Yokohama [GALLO/GETTY]
Japan has pulled out of bidding for the 2018 football World Cup, electing instead to focus on competing for the 2022 event.
The move puts more pressure on bids from South Korea and Qatar, who were the only countries bidding only for 2022 until Tuesday.
The Japanese initially put themselves forward as candidates to stage either of the World Cups – a move also made by countries like England and Australia – but have opted to only bid for one of them after meetings with world governing body Fifa.
Japan Football Association president Motoaki Inukai told Tuesday's Sports Hochi newspaper that it appeared Fifa was intent on staging the 2018 World Cup in Europe.
Japan co-hosted the 2002 World Cup with South Korea.
Fifa is voting December 2 on who will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Inukai and Japan's sports Tatsuo Kawabata met with Fifa president Sepp Blatter in Zurich on Monday.
"President Blatter told us that European countries would be battling it out for 2018 and that it would be a wiser choice to go for 2022," Kawabata was quoted as saying.
Inukai said he would make a formal announcement after explaining the move at a bidding committee meeting on May 11.
England, Russia, the United States, Australia and joint bids from Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium form the field vying for either the 2018 or 2022 editions.
Source: Associated Press