• Kyodo


Japan striker Yuya Kubo returned home on Wednesday pleased with his goal-scoring exploits over the second half of the season at Belgium first-division club Gent.

Kubo bagged 11 goals for Gent after joining the Jupiler League side from Swiss club Young Boys in January, raising hopes he can replicate that form for Japan when the Samurai Blue face Iraq next month in a World Cup final-round qualifier.

“It has been easy for me to play (in Belgium). I am glad I was able to deliver results,” Kubo told reporters at Narita airport.

“I will give my absolute maximum for Japan,” said Kubo, who has scored in Japan’s last two World Cup qualifiers against United Arab Emirates and Thailand.

The 23-year-old Kubo was recently linked with newly promoted English Premier League club Brighton and Hove Albion but said he “does not yet know” where he will be next season.

Japan boss Vahid Halilhodzic on Thursday names his squad for the June 13 game against Iraq in neutral Iran. A friendly precedes that game at home to Syria on June 7.

Takashi Inui of Spanish La Liga club Eibar did his hopes of a recall to the national team no harm, scoring a brace against Barcelona on Sunday.

With six league goals, Inui went one better than former Mallorca player Yoshito Okubo to become the top-scoring Japanese player in the Spanish first division.

“I have done everything I can (this season),” said Inui, who also returned to Japan on Wednesday, flying into Kansai airport. “If I get picked (for the national team) I have to show my trademark qualities.”

Inui has not been involved with the national team since March 2015.

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