Japan defender Maya Yoshida said he was “buzzing” after leading his side to a 2-0 victory in Thursday’s World Cup qualifier against UAE in place of injured skipper Makoto Hasebe.
Yuya Kubo and Yasuyuki Konno scored a goal in each half in Al Ain to keep the four-times Asian champions locked on 13 points with Group B leaders Saudi Arabia in Asian qualifying for the next year’s World Cup finals.
Yoshida said he felt a lot more pressure to deliver a result in the absence of Hasebe.
“I’m buzzing. Of course, for me it was the first time to take such a great responsibility,” the 28-year-old told Kyodo News.
“You feel more pressure than usual and I wanted to try even harder for Hasebe. In another way, I didn’t want us to lose and people say the reason was because Hasebe was not in the team.”
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Hasebe was forced to undergo surgery on his right knee in Tokyo this week and will miss the rest of the Bundesliga season, his German club Eintracht Frankfurt said.
“I’m sure I’ll be able to rejoin the team in time for next year’s pre-season training,” the 33-year-old told the club website.
Midfielder Hasebe has been an important figure for Japan over the last decade, helping the side win the 2011 Asian Cup and qualify for 2010 and 2014 World Cups.
Japan, who are looking for a sixth straight appearance at the World Cup finals, host bottom-placed Thailand at the Saitama Stadium on Tuesday. The top two from the group go through to the finals.
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