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Hasebe to join Japan squad despite club’s injury fears

Kyodo

Japan captain Makoto Hasebe will join up with the national team in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday as scheduled ahead of its crunch World Cup qualifier here, despite his German club Eintracht Frankfurt saying he would soon have to undergo knee surgery.

Frankfurt said Saturday that Hasebe, 33, would need to have an operation on the knee sometime after Monday. But a Japan Football Association source said Sunday that Hasebe would join up with the team and that coach Vahid Halilhodzic would consult team medical staff before deciding on a course of action.

Japan faces the UAE on Thursday and then takes on Thailand at home in another Group B game in Saitama on March 28.

Frankfurt has not said which knee Hasebe will have surgery on, but the midfielder suffered a gash to his left shin after colliding with the post in Frankfurt’s 3-0 defeat away to Bayern Munich on March 11.

Hasebe was immediately taken to the hospital and had six stitches. Frankfurt said he had an MRI on Thursday and cleared him to return the following day, but had to cut training short. Team medical staff decided later that Hasebe needed an operation and would be out indefinitely.

Hasebe will first undergo arthroscopic surgery for a comprehensive examination on the knee before determining plans for further treatment, according to Frankfurt.

Hasebe has been Japan skipper since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Halilhodzic said in announcing his squad for the two qualifiers on Thursday, “Hasebe is a very strong captain for us. Having a team without him in it is unthinkable.”

Japan suffered a controversial 2-1 defeat to UAE in its opening match in the final round of qualifiers in September last year, when Takuma Asano had a legitimate goal ruled out that would have leveled the match 2-2.

Halihozic’s men are level on 10 points from five games with Saudi Arabia, who top the group on goal difference. Third-place Australia and fourth-place UAE both have nine points, with Iraq on three and bottom club Thailand on one.