• Kyodo

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Buoyed by a goal for Mainz on the opening weekend of the Bundesliga season, striker Yoshinori Muto is ready to make his mark for Japan when the four-time Asian champion takes on the United Arab Emirates in Saitama on Thursday in its Group B opener in the final round of qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup.

Muto has returned to the national team fold for the first time since a second-round World Cup qualifier against Cambodia last November, having spent a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a right knee ligament injury.

The former FC Tokyo striker came on with nine minutes to go and headed home Pablo de Blasis’ cross from the right in the second minute of stoppage time in Mainz’s 2-1 defeat to Shinji Kagawa’s Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.

Muto says he has no problem with his knee and is ready to start if called upon against UAE.

“It’s been nine months (since I have been with the national team) and that’s a long time. I haven’t delivered results yet (for Japan) and I want to make sure I do that this time,” said Muto.

“I have no problem whatsoever (with my knee) and if I am called upon to start (against UAE) then I am ready to do that,” he said.

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