Earthquake troubled Japan's team

June 19, 2018
Japan's head coach Akira Nishino attends the official press conference at the 2018 soccer World Cup.

 

Russia (AP):

Word of a deadly earthquake in Japan and an early-morning false alarm at a team hotel have given the country's World Cup squad some unsettling moments.

Japan coach Akira Nishino, who built his professional reputation coaching Gamba Osaka, said he and a number of his players have acquaintances or loved ones affected by Monday's quake, making for an unwelcome distraction on the eve of the team's Group H opener against Colombia in Saransk.

"The psychological impact is something I'm slightly worried about at this point," Nishino said before Monday afternoon's training session. "As staff members, we are consulting with them and I'd like them to be settled down as soon as possible."

Osaka is Japan's second-largest city. The 6.1 magnitude earthquake killed at least three people including a 9-year-old girl and injured hundreds.

 

Heartfelt condolences

 

Midfielder and captain Hasebe Makoto said that on behalf of the team, he "would like to extend heartfelt condolences to those who have been affected and I hope damage can be limited as much as possible and recovery is as fast as possible."

Japan players with Osaka ties include goalkeeper Masaaki Higashigushi and midfielder Hotaru Yamaguchi, who play professionally in Osaka, while attacking midfielder Keisuke Honda was born in the area.

Nishino said he and players found out about the earthquake shortly after it happened because an alarm went off at the team hotel in Saransk and blared for about 15 minutes around the same time as the earthquake struck.

Team officials said that none of the players have reported earthquake-related injuries among family or close friends, and players haven't reported any difficulty contacting loved ones.

There was some good news for Okazaki on the pitch. He was back to training after missing the past four days to rest a nagging calf injury.

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