Southampton's centre back Maya Yoshida has been named in the latest Japan squad for their friendlies, which will see the Asian side come up against Afghanistan and Syria at the end of the month.
A squad of 23 players was named last night as Yoshida and his team mates look to continue their push into qualifying for the next World Cup in Russia as well as the Asia Cup. Chances in the Southampton first team have been limited this season for Yoshida so he will be looking to get some more minutes under his belt in these qualifying matches.
Japan will first come against Afghanistan on Thursday 24th March (10.30am GMT), before facing Syria on Tuesday 29th March (11.30am BST). Both of these matches will be in Saitama and are matches which the Japanese should really be looking to take maximum points out of as they are now widely considered as one of the most improved sides in world football at the moment. These two matches are double headers for qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia as well as the next Asia Cup which is in 2019.
These two matches are the final two in the qualifying stage and so are vital ones in terms of the future of the both teams. The way the qualification works is through the eight group winners and the four best runner-ups will automatically reach the Asia Cup finals in the UAE in three years’ time.
Those teams will also make it to the third section of qualifying for the World Cup in two years’ time. Japan are currently top of their group heading into the final two fixtures having collected 16 points from their six matches. The only side who can mathematically catch them is Syria who, lie one point further back and so this is what makes these fixtures they even more crucial as they have real barring’s on future events.