• Kyodo


The Japan Football Association has asked Italian first-division club Fiorentina to release midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata for the Feb. 9 World Cup qualifier at home to North Korea, club sources said Friday.

The JFA also requested that Nakata be released from club duty on Jan. 29 in time for Japan’s home friendly against Syria in Saitama on Feb. 2, it said, but added that Fiorentina replied it intends to keep him at least until Feb. 5.

Nakata, who last played for his country in a 2-1 win away to Singapore on March 31 in the first round of World Cup qualifiers, has not played for Fiorentina for a month due to a back problem.

Japan and North Korea will kick off their campaigns in the final round of qualifiers with their clash in Saitama. Iran and Bahrain are the other teams in Group B, from which the top two qualify directly for the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany.

Hiroyama loaned out

OSAKA (Kyodo) J. League club Cerezo Osaka said Saturday it has acquired former Japan midfielder Nozomi Hiroyama on loan from fellow first-division side Tokyo Verdy.

The loan deal for the 27-year-old runs from Feb. 1 to Jan. 31 next year. Cerezo has also signed Brazilian midfielders Fabinho and Ze Carlos from Corinthians as well as Brazilian defender Bruno Quadros from Cruzeiro.

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