KUALA LUMPUR: Asian football’s governing body invited bids on Tuesday to stage the 2023 Asian Cup after China withdrew as hosts because of the coronavirus, with Japan a possible replacement. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) set a deadline of June 30 for member associations to submit new bids, after which officials will make a decision on the host. In May the AFC said that China had pulled out as hosts of the 24-team Asian Cup, due to take place in June-July next year, as the country pursues a zero-Covid policy — a stance that makes staging sports events a major challenge. Japan Football Association chairman Kozo Tashima recently told local media that his country had been “sounded out” about holding the tournament next year. “If Japan were to host it, it would be exciting, no doubt about it,” Tashima was quoted as saying. The Asian Cup is staged every four years, with Qatar winning the last edition in 2019.