Soccer

Knee injury rules midfielder Toshihiro Aoyama out of World Cup

Kyodo

Sanfrecce Hiroshima defensive midfielder Toshihiro Aoyama has been ruled out of the World Cup starting next month in Russia because of a right knee injury, the Japan Football Association said Thursday.

Aoyama, who complained of knee pain following Sanfrecce’s 2-0 loss to Cerezo Osaka on May 20, pulled out of the running for the tournament after undergoing an examination at a Chiba Prefecture hospital earlier in the day.

A member of the Samurai Blue squad at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the 32-year-old was set to return to international duties for the first time in roughly three years after being recalled for Japan’s friendly against Ghana on May 30.

“It’s disappointing to have to pull out because of an injury,” Aoyama said in a statement from the JFA. “I want everyone (in the squad) to do their best for Japan. I’ll be supporting you as a Japanese player.”

Head coach Akira Nishino last week named a 27-man squad to face Ghana at Yokohama’s Nissan Stadium in Japan’s final warm-up on home soil for the upcoming World Cup, which begins on June 14.