Japan has apologised to Qatar for suggesting that it could step in and host the 2022 World Cup, if the Gulf state was stripped of hosting rights.

Japan Football Association (JFA) president Kuniya Daini made the initial comments in a taped interview with AFP in late March, but he later backtracked following a complaint from Qatar.

Now the JFA have issued a statement clarifying Daini’s remarks and apologised for “creating a misunderstanding”.

“The article left Qatar officials with the bad impression that the Japan Football Association had expressed its intention to actively invite the 2022 World Cup,” the JFA communications department said in a statement.

“Therefore, the Japan Football Association, for its part, sent a letter in which it explained that Daini’s intentions were not properly conveyed and it apologised for creating a misunderstanding.”

Qatar has come under fire over alleged corruption in the bidding process, and also for the deaths of foreign workers at construction sites – prompting speculation that the finals would taken away.

Daini, when asked what would happen if Qatar lost hosting rights, said at the time: “If FIFA look for an alternative country, we already have the stadiums that would meet the criteria to host it.

“We have the Olympics in 2020. If there is a chance, we’d like to do it, although I don’t know how likely that would be.”

The JFA said: “He [Daini] was not expressing a willingness to host the 2022 World Cup in Japan.

“After we told Qatar that the president’s intentions had not been properly conveyed, the Qatari association said it fully understood.”

Which is just as well, because when Daini said “we’d like to do it” it did sound an awful lot like he was ‘expressing a willingness to host the 2022 World Cup’.