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Komano doubtful for Oman qualifier

by Gus Fielding

Kyodo

Japan is sweating on the fitness of Yuichi Komano ahead of its World Cup qualifier away to Oman, after the versatile Jubilo Iwata defender skipped the Asian champions’ final training session in Doha on Monday with a sore back.

Komano hurt his lower back during training on Sunday, causing another potential headache for coach Alberto Zaccheroni, who is already missing Schalke defender Atsuto Uchida (thigh) and Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa (knee) through injury.

“The pain has subsided but Komano is resting at the hotel as a precaution,” Japan team media officer Hideki Kato told reporters.

Hannover defender Hiroki Sakai would the natural choice to replace Komano, should the 31-year-old fail to recover in time for Wednesday’s game in Muscat.

Stuttgart’s Gotoku Sakai, who was called up to replace Uchida and can operate on both sides of defense, is another option.

CSKA Moscow star Keisuke Honda, Bundesliga forwards Takashi Usami and Takashi Inui and Southhampton defender Maya Yoshida all trained with the team for the first time in sweltering heat in the Qatari capital after arriving on Sunday night.

“You break into a sweat just walking here, but it is something fresh for me (having come from Moscow),” said Honda, adding that the team must not make any excuses for the torrid afternoon heat that awaits it in the qualifier.

“The heat won’t work for us or against us. I don’t see it as a positive or a negative. It is just nature and we have to adapt to it. It is the same conditions for both teams,” said the bleach-blonde attacking midfielder.

Japan was set to head for Oman later Monday. Both Sakais, Shinji Okazaki and Makoto Hasebe will join up with the team in Muscat.

The Blue Samurai are five points clear of Australia and Oman, and victory over Paul Le Guen’s men, who they swept aside 3-0 in Saitama in June, would put them on the verge of clinching one of the two automatic Group B spots for Brazil 2014.