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IBUSUKI, Kagoshima Pref. — As many players fight over places on Japan’s World Cup squad, Shimizu S-Pulse midfielder Alessandro Santos, known as Alex, calmly expressed his confidence in surviving the selection race.

“Am I confident of remaining on the squad? I am,” Santos said on Wednesday after training with the other Japan squad candidates at the Ibusuki Iwasaki Hotel ground for the last three days. “If you are not confident, you cannot survive. I’d like to do it confidently.”

It’s the first time that Alex has been called up for a Japan national team training camp since the 24-year-old Brazil-born player was granted Japanese citizenship in November, after a long and anxious waiting period.

“I feel happy to be in a Japan shirt,” Santos said, “But I don’t want to think this is my first and last. I’ll work hard so that I can wear it all the time.”

But Santos, the 2000 J. League’s Player of the Year winner, is aware that he has to compete against not only his talented rivals, especially on the left midfield, but also against time to quickly learn the style the national team has played under Japan coach Philippe Troussier over the last three years.

A total of 41 domestic players have been invited to the ongoing training camp. Troussier is planning to cut down his squad from 41, excluding the six overseas-based players, to 30 for a mid-March training camp and then to 23, also excluding the overseas players, for a friendly against Ukraine on March 21 in Osaka — Japan’s first of the eight World Cup warm-ups. Troussier will then check and decide his final squad of 23 for the quadrennial tournament. The deadline for FIFA’s team-roster registration will be May 21.

“I don’t think I have understood what coach Troussier is aiming to do with the team, as I have been with the team only for the last two days or so. I want to work with the team more and try to pick up as much as I can through the training sessions. If I am required to work on defense more for the national team than I do for S-Pulse, I will do that. I would like to improve my defense as well as my offense to become a better player.”

Santos, who played in all 30 regular season games and scored 12 goals for Shimizu, stressed, “Playing in the World Cup is my dream, for sure.”

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