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South Korea
 By John Duerden

Yosuke Ideguchi ready to leave Japan, risk World Cup selection for Leeds

The ESPN FC crew feel Group H is the most unpredictable with Poland, Senegal, Colombia and Japan making up the group.

Japan international midfielder Yosuke Ideguchi scored the winning goal against North Korea on Saturday in the East Asian Championships, and then told reporters that he is ready to join Leeds United.

According to reports in Tokyo, the Gamba Osaka star has agreed to move to the English second-tier side in January, but expects to be loaned out to another country in the European Union as he does not yet meet the requirements necessary to receive a British work permit.

"I think that this is a place where I can learn and improve as a player," Ideguchi said.

The 2016 J.League Rookie of the Year admitted that he will be taking a risk if he does go abroad with the 2018 World Cup just around the corner.

Ideguchi only broke into the national team squad a year ago, and if he struggles for playing time in Europe, it could affect his chances of taking on Poland, Colombia and Senegal in Group G of the World Cup in June.

Yosuke Ideguchi scores for Japan v North Korea 2017
Yosuke Ideguchi scored his second international goal as Japan defeated North Korea 1-0 in Tokyo on Saturday.

"Some have said that it is better to wait until after the World Cup," he said. "But I want to go my own way and go as soon as possible."

The 21-year-old has been on the radar of Leeds for some time, perhaps put there by Toshiya Fujita, the former Japanese international who is now Head of Football Development in Asia for the Yorkshire club.

With his winning goal against North Korea the second for his country, Ideguchi is one of the most highly rated young players in Asia.

His first goal came in August with a spectacular long-range strike that sealed victory over Australia and a place at the 2018 World Cup.

Asian expert John Duerden is the author of Lions and Tigers: Story of Football in Singapore and Malaysia.Twitter: @JohnnyDuerden.


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