The Press Round-up

(Extended highlights of the 2011 AFC Asian Cup Group B clash between Japan and Jordan, the last occasion in which the two teams met. Maya Yoshida headed an equaliser in stoppage time, cancelling out the 45th minute Abdel Fattah strike which Yoshida diverted past Eiji Kawashima. The Saitama Stadium provides the stage for the second of Japan’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Fourth Round qualification matches on Friday 8 June)

As the Samurai Blue countdown to Friday’s 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification match against Jordan, the Sankei Shimbun provides a note of caution for Japan. Head Coach Adnan Hamad guided Al-Nashama to a 1-1 draw in Iraq in their opening Group B match, and while he was sacked as manager of the Iraq national team in 2008 having failed to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, he took the Under-23 side to fourth place at the 2004 Olympic Games. In their two previous meetings Japan has not won in ordinary time, coming from behind in a penalty shootout in their 2004 AFC Asian Cup quarter-final, and in the 2011 competition Maya Yoshida headied an equaliser in the 92nd minute to ensure their opening Group B game ended in a 1-1 draw, having seen his outstretched boot deflect Abdel Fattah’s shot beyond Eiji Kawashima before half-time. Japan eventually topped the group, but only by virtue of a superior goal difference to Jordan.

In positive news for the national team, the Asahi Shimbun reports that they have moved up seven places in the latest FIFA World Rankings. The Samurai Blue now sit in 23rd position, their highest position since January 2012, and with AFC rivals dropping three spaces to 24th, they now rank the highest of any nation in the confederation.

Hiromi Hara, Technical Director for the Japanese national team, has confirmed that there will be no training camp for the Under-23 Samurai Blue prior to the team departing for the London 2012 Games, according to the Sankei Shimbun. Citing a very busy domestic schedule and resting potential squad members based overseas, final preparations will instead be made in advance of the send-off match versus New Zealand on July 11, part of a double-header at the National Olympic Stadium in which the Nadeshiko will host Australia.

And finally, Kashiwa Reysol forward and former Japan international Hideaki Kitajima has agreed a loan move to J.League Division Two side Roasso Kumamoto. The 33-year old from Chiba has made just five appearances for the Sun Kings in 2012, three of those in the starting line-up, and Kitajima said enthusiasm for the move was borne out of wanting to play. Beyond three years at Shimizu S-Pulse between 2003 and 2005, Kitajima has been at Reysol since 1997, making 209 total appearances for both sides and scoring 43 goals in that time. Joining Roasso at the end of July, the loan is scheduled to finish at the end of the 2012 season, and his presence will doubtless be welcomed by a team struggling for goals, in a division where only three teams have netted fewer times.

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