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Japan to kick off World Cup preparations against Ukraine

TOKYO, Jan 17 - Japan will kick off an eight-match build-up to this summer's World Cup finals by taking on Ukraine in Osaka on March 21, the Japan Football Association announced on Thursday.

The match is to take place in the stadium that will host one of the semi-finals of the May 31-June 30 World Cup, which is being co-hosted by Japan and South Korea.

Japan will then fly to Europe to take on Poland on March 27 before hosting Costa Rica in Yokohoma on April 17 in the stadium where the World Cup final will be played on June 30.

In the annual Kirin Cup tournament, Japan will play Honduras in Tokyo on April 29 and Slovakia on May 2 at the Kobe Wing Stadium, which will stage two World Cup preliminary matches.p

Japan will then travel to Europe again for games against Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid on May 7 and Norway on May 14 before playing Sweden in their final warm-up game.

Japan have been drawn with Belgium, Russia and Tunisia in their first round group in the World Cup and are seen as having a good chance of progressing to the second round.

"We can get data and my players can learn by new experience through each game. I'd like to proceed with our preparation calmly, we don't need to play like a World Cup before the World Cup," said Japan's coach Philippe Troussier.

"We chose these European teams, because their football is similar to Russia's," he added.

Troussier is currently working with a squad of 40 players, which will be reduced to 23 shortly before the match against Ukraine.

Overseas-based players including Parma midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata and Feyenoord's Shinji Ono, will join the national side from the match against Poland.

source: Daily Soccer

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