STAND-OFF AVERTED

Ja­pan cap­tain Hasebe with­draws over po­ten­tial club-coun­try row

New Straits Times - - Sport -

JA­PAN cap­tain Makoto Hasebe has with­drawn from the squad for this week’s World Cup qual­i­fier against the United Arab Emi­rates, avert­ing a po­ten­tial stand-off with his Ger­man club Ein­tra­cht Frank­furt over a knee prob­lem.

The 33-year-old, who has been Ja­pan skip­per since 2010, ar­rived in the UAE late on Sun­day de­spite his Bun­desliga club say­ing he needed an op­er­a­tion on a knee in­jury sus­tained in a 3-0 de­feat by Bay­ern Mu­nich on March 11.

On Mon­day, though, the mid­fielder said he had trav­elled to join the squad with the bless­ing of Ein­tra­cht but would now go to Ja­pan to get an­other di­ag­no­sis of the in­jury.

“There is a good chance I will go un­der the knife. I’ll re­turn to Ja­pan for a third opin­ion with a trusted doc­tor,” Hasebe told re­porters in Al Ain ac­cord­ing to Ky­odo news.

“I’m leav­ing the team just be­fore this cru­cial match and I feel re­ally bad. Ob­vi­ously, I am very dis­ap­pointed and it has been a very dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion to make.

“But I don’t think this will have too much of a neg­a­tive im­pact on the team. I trust my team mates 100, 120 per cent.”

Ja­pan are sec­ond in Group B of Asia’s qual­i­fy­ing tour­na­ment for the Rus­sia 2018 fi­nals, level on points with Saudi Ara­bia and one ahead of third-placed Aus­tralia and the UAE. Only the top two teams are guar­an­teed to qual­ify for the fi­nals.

Hasebe has been a key fig­ure for Ja­pan for much of the last decade, help­ing the team win the 2011 Asian Cup and qual­ify for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.

“Hasebe is a very strong cap­tain for us,” said coach Vahid Halil­hodzic when he an­nounced his squad last week. “Hav­ing a team with­out him in it is un­think­able.”

The for­mer Urawa Red Di­a­monds stand­out was in­jured when he col­lided with a post while clear­ing a Thomas Mueller shot off the line against Bay­ern.

He was taken to hos­pi­tal af­ter the game to have a wound on his left shin stitched but later broke down in train­ing and the club de­cided he would need an op­er­a­tion.

Halil­hodzic, who took over as Ja­pan coach fol­low­ing Javier Aguirre’s de­par­ture in early 2015, has been un­der pres­sure fol­low­ing sev­eral un­con­vinc­ing dis­plays, in­clud­ing a shock 2-1 loss to the Emi­rates in the open­ing match of the round.

“Ever since los­ing the first game against the UAE at home I have wanted to come here and erase the dis­ap­point­ment of that de­feat,” Hasebe added.

“I have played well with my club with that feel­ing in mind and to get this in­jury just be­fore the game is heart­break­ing.”

Ja­pan, who are seek­ing a sixth straight ap­pear­ance at the World Cup, take on the UAE to­day be­fore re­turn­ing home to face Thai­land on Tues­day. Reuters

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