Yoshida aiming to move a step closer to the 2018 World Cup

By SFC Media Tue 22 Mar Club

Maya Yoshida is hoping to take a big step towards the 2018 FIFA World Cup with Japan during the next week.

The Saints defender is away with his country for a pair of qualifiers, at home to Afghanistan and Syria.

The Samurai Blue currently top Group E in the second round of the Asian section’s qualification process and will be looking to seal that position and advance to the final stage.

Both matches also double as 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers, with Japan all-but-certain to book their place at that tournament.

"It's a long time after November's internationals, so it's good to meet again, to go back to Japan and play for my home country,” Yoshida told Southampton’s official YouTube channel.

“It's also important games for the qualification for the World Cup. Maybe the level of the opponent is not the same like in the Premier League, but it's always an honour to be there and to play for my country.”

Japan have taken 16 points from their six games so far in the second stage of qualifying, and they are yet to concede a goal.

They will face struggling Afghanistan, who they beat 6-0 away from home, on Thursday, before also welcoming Syria, who are second on 15 points, to Saitama next Tuesday.

After failing to get out of the group stage at the last World Cup and losing in the quarter-finals of the 2015 Asian Cup, Yoshida believes these two games will be important as they look to build towards better outcomes next time.

"The level is a big difference I think, but always in home games we have to play well,” said Yoshida. “We are hugely disappointed after the World Cup and Asian Cup, so we need to get back to there as well and make a good result. That's why we need to play better and better every game.”

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