NARITA, Chiba -- The 23 members of the "Samurai Blue" Japanese national soccer team and head coach Akira Nishino set off from Narita International Airport on June 2 for training in Innsbruck, Austria, ahead of the June 14 start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.
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Before departing on their chartered flight, the newly assembled team held a ceremony at the boarding gate. Nishino said, "The players and staff will unite and we will play as hard as we can to meet the expectations of our supporters."
"We will go to Russia with a strong intent to compete," added team captain Makoto Hasebe, who plays for Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany's Bundesliga.
Samurai Blue will first face off in a friendly against Switzerland in the country on June 8 (June 9 Japan time) and Paraguay on June 12 in Innsbruck before heading to Russia. There, the Japanese national team will begin playing the first round of the cup against fellow members of Group H: Colombia on June 19, Senegal on June 24 and Poland on June 28.
(Japanese original by Chisa Fukuda, Sports News Department)