• Kyodo

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Japan will host Syria in a warm-up for its World Cup qualifier against Iraq in June, the Japan Football Association announced Wednesday.

Japan will play Syria on June 7 at Ajinomoto Stadium, ahead of the June 13 qualifier also at home to Iraq. Japan and Syria were in the same group during the previous qualifying round with both teams advancing to the final round.

Halfway through the campaign, Japan is second in Group B behind Saudi Arabia on goal difference. Syria is fourth in Group A, five points out of an automatic qualification spot and four points away from a playoff berth.

“Syria plays a similar style to Iraq,” Japan manager Vahid Halilhodzic said. “The last time we played them, the game was close right to the finish and we regard them as a quality team.

“We chose to play in Tokyo because it would make preparations for the Iraq game a lot smoother.”

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