• Kyodo

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Hamburg SV defender Gotoku Sakai has been added to the Japan squad for the upcoming friendlies to be held in Belgium, the Japan Football Association said late Monday evening.

Sakai was called up after right-back candidates Hiroki Sakai and Wataru Endo sustained injuries, leaving them doubtful for the games against Mali and Ukraine on March 23 and 27, respectively, in the eastern Belgium city of Liege.

Neither Hiroki Sakai nor Endo traveled with the team, which had its first training session Monday in Liege.

“You must all know how I work (seeing me) the last three years,” Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic said to the players on the pitch.

“How you fulfill my demands will affect the squad selection. Right now I’m not happy with your performance. I’ll see how you compete against each other and decide on the final list of 23 players (for the World Cup).”

The friendlies in Belgium are warm-up matches for the World Cup in Russia in June and July, when Japan will face Columbia, Senegal and Poland in Group H.

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