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Nine Bundesliga players make Japan squad

Japan's connection to the Bundesliga appears to be strengthening with nine Germany-based players included in the first squad picked by the team's new coach. Japan is playing two friendlies in the coming week.

Nine Bundesliga-based players have been included in Vahid Halilhodzic's first squad as head coach of the Japanese national team.

Following a disappointing World Cup in Brazil, the Samurai Blues embark on a new era under the former Algeria and Ivory Coast boss with friendlies in March against Tunisia and Uzbekistan.

Halilhodzic has named 31 players in his squad with 14 based in European leagues and the rest from the domestic J-League.

Japan was sent home from the Asian Cup at the quarterfinal stage after defeat to the United Arab Emirates on penalties with six Bundesliga players part of the team's squad for the tournament in Australia.

In addition to Shinji Okazaki (Mainz), Takashi Inui and Makoto Hasebe (Frankfurt), Gotoku Sakai (Stuttgart), Hiroshi Kiyotake (Hannover) and Shinji Kagawa (Dortmund), Halilhodzic has named Astuto Uchida (Schalke), Hiroki Sakai (Hannover) and Yuya Osako (Cologne) in his squad.

Schalke's Uchida has been included in the list despite the full-back suffering from ankle problems since the Champions League win at Real Madrid. He joins Kagawa from arch rivals Dortmund whose form in the Bundesliga saw a noticeable improvement after he returned from the Asian Cup.

Meanwhile, with a friendly against Australia and then a Euro 2016 qualifier in Georgia next weekend, Germany will confirm their squad on Friday.

According to German newspaper "Bild," Inter's out-of-form Lukas Podolski will be selected in the squad, despite yet to hit the net in Serie A for his new club.

rd/al (AFP, Reuters)

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