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Soccer: Japan to face Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan in World Cup qualifying

Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu gives instructions to his players during the first half in a Group C match of the Copa America football tournament in Sao Paulo on June 17, 2019. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan will face Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Myanmar and Mongolia in the second round of 2022 World Cup Asian qualifying after being drawn in Group F on Wednesday.

    The draw at the AFC House in Kuala Lumpur saw the 34 top-ranked sides in Asia, along with the six winners of first-round ties, placed in eight qualifying groups.

    At 28 in the FIFA rankings, Japan is the highest-ranked side in the group, with No. 95 Kyrgyzstan the next highest.

    The second round of Asian qualifying for the World Cup finals in Qatar will run from Sept. 5, 2019, to June 9, 2020. The group winners and four best runners-up will advance to the third round. The 12 sides will also automatically qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup.

    Led by Hajime Moriyasu, the Samurai Blue aim to qualify for a seventh straight World Cup as the tournament comes to Asia for just the second time.

    "Now it feels like the battle has begun to reach the World Cup in Qatar," Moriyasu said following the draw.

    "No matter where you play or who you face, you have to respect your opponent and give 100 percent."

    Newly appointed Thailand head coach Akira Nishino -- who managed Japan at the 2018 World Cup with Moriyasu as assistant -- will try to lead his team through Group G, which also includes the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.

    Keisuke Honda, a member of Japan's past three World Cup squads, will lead Cambodia into Group C following his appointment as national team manager last year. They will face Iran, Iraq, Bahrain and Hong Kong.

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