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Japan midfielder Gaku Shibasaki to be evaluated over anxiety fears

Gaku Shibasaki joined Tenerife on Jan. 31 but has only taken part in one training session.

Tenerife have announced that Japan midfielder Gaku Shibasaki is to be evaluated by specialists over anxiety fears.

Shibasaki, 24, joined Spanish second-tier side Tenerife on Jan. 31 as a free agent and signed a contract until June 30, with an option to extend it should the Canary Islands-based club gain promotion to La Liga.

Shibasaki, who was a target for La Liga side Las Palmas in the winter transfer window, has trained just once with his new team, on Feb. 2, just one day after his unveiling.

He...

Japan official Shun-Ichiro Okano dies; led World Cup organising committee

Shun-Ichiro Okano was a key figure in Japanese football.

TOKYO -- The official who led Japan's organising committee of the 2002 World Cup has died. Shun-Ichiro Okano was 85.

Japan's football federation announced on Friday that Okano died from lung cancer on Thursday in a hospital in Tokyo.

Okano played for and coached the national team, and served a four-year term as the federation's president through the 2002 World Cup co-hosted with South Korea.

The federation said in a statement it "would like to extend our deep gratitude for his lifelong dedication."

Okano...

ESPN FC  By Dale Johnson

Argentina, Netherlands, Japan and Ghana in danger of missing World Cup

With 12 months to go before we know the 31 teams who will join hosts Russia at the 2018 World Cup, we take a look at some of the major nations and familiar names who appear to have a battle on their hands to make the finals.

Argentina and Chile

Argentina's 3-0 defeat in Brazil last week left them facing a huge crisis in their qualification bid. However, victory at home to Colombia on Tuesday averted this for now, as at least that win left them fifth and that offers a playoff against the winners of...

Barcelona's Rakuten sponsorship includes deal for friendly in Japan

Barcelona's new four-year, €220 million sponsorship deal with Asian e-commerce company Rakuten includes an obligation to play at least one friendly in Japan in the coming years.

At a presentation to confirm the agreement, club vice president Manel Arroyo said there would definitely be one game and possibly two if the calendar permitted it.

That means more long haul flights for Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar and their Barcelona teammates.

As well as the trio's regular flights to South...

 By John Duerden

Marcello Lippi fails to inspire China while Australia draw 2-2 in Thailand

Jason Dasey and Matt Smith break down Thailand's resilient effort in their 2-2 draw against Australia in WCQ.
China coach Marcello Lippi
Marcello Lippi took charge of his first competitive game as China head coach.

Marcello Lippi was unable to inspire China to a win in his first game in charge as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Qatar in a AFC World Cup qualifier in Kunming on Tuesday evening.

The hosts are bottom of Group A in the final round of qualification for the 2018 World Cup with just one point from the first four games, and the result almost certainly ends the slim hopes they had of finishing in the top two in the six-team group and progressing automatically to Russia.

China had plenty of chances but...