WORLD CUP USA '94 / QUARTERFINALS : Spotlight : SEE YOU IN 2002

Times London Bureau

Gary Lineker, a former English star who plays in Japan, told the Observer in London that Japanese audiences were not dismayed because Japan failed to qualify for the World Cup finals in the United States.

"It had completely the opposite effect," Lineker said. "Practically overnight, football went from a novelty, boom sport to a national obsession. Qualifying for the next World Cup immediately became a priority. What they had discovered was the patriotic fervor that, with the dubious exception of war, only football--and in particular the World Cup--can generate. . . .

"The real talk, though, is not just of USA '94 but the possibilities of Japan (playing host to the event in) 2002."

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