Makino, Sakai doubtful for Japan
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Japan's depleted rearguard has taken a further knock as new Cologne signing Tomoaki Makino and uncapped Gotoku Sakai became doubtful for the Blue Samurai's AFC Asian Cup opener against Jordan on Sunday.

Makino, a former Sanfrecce Hiroshima defender who sealed a 30-month deal with the Bundesliga side on Monday, sprained both ankles in training and was seen limping off the pitch yesterday. Sakai, a 19-year-old Albirex Niigata fullback, skipped training with lower back pain.

"I guess it's alright," the 23-year-old told reporters. "We have many days ahead. You know this is the beginning of a 'Makino Story.'"

Makino, who can play anywhere at the back, is an option for Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni to make up for the absence of tested FIFA World Cup™ centre-backs Marcus Tulio Tanaka and Yuji Nakazawa, who are injured.

Daiki Iwamasa, a Kashima Antlers centre-back who warmed the FIFA World Cup bench in South Africa, where Japan reached the last-16, is recovering from a two-week-old injury in the sole of his right foot.

"I am still working on a separate menu. I want to join the guys but it may be difficult for the opening game," the 28-year-old said.

Iwamasa strained the foot in Kashima's quarter-final win over J-League champions Nagoya Grampus in the Emperor's Cup on 25 December. His club went on to win the coveted cup on New Year's Day by beating Shimizu S-Pulse.

Japan, aiming for a record fourth Asian Cup title, are grouped with Saudi Arabia, who beat them in the 2007 semi-finals, Jordan and Syria.