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Japan’s third-string players are forcing their way into World Cup contention with their performances at the E-1 Football Championship, according to manager Vahid Halilhodzic.

“I think these players are serious candidates to play for the full-strength national team,” Halilhodzic said after Japan beat China 2-1 on Tuesday night for its second win in two games at the ongoing regional tournament, following an opening 1-0 victory over North Korea.

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