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After surviving one of the “most difficult” seasons of his Premier League career, Japan defensive stalwart Maya Yoshida said Thursday he is mentally prepared to help his Samurai Blue teammates face the challenges ahead of them at the World Cup in Russia.

Having regularly finished in the top half of the table during Yoshida’s six years at the club, Southampton ended last season in 17th place, with a late surge under replacement coach Mark Hughes helping it stave off relegation.

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