Munich - TSV 1860 Munich returned to training on Tuesday with a new recruit in the shape of Japanese striker Yuya Osako.

The 23-year-old has signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with the Lions, joining from Kashima Antlers.

Major coup

Osako has appeared 15 times for his country, scoring eight goals, and he is a strong candidate to appear at the FIFA World Cup next summer. "We're delighted to have been able to sign a player of his calibre," said sporting director Florian Hinterberger. "Yuya wants to play well so that he can go to the World Cup in Brazil with Japan. For us, that means we can boast a strong attack in Bundesliga 2."

The centre forward is looking forward to life in Germany, while he hopes to help his new side in their push for a place in the top flight in the near future. "The Bundesliga 2 is incredibly strong and 1860 are a side with a great tradition who are known even in Japan," Osako said. "I would like to support the club in achieving their objectives with my good performances and goals. This is the best opportunity for me to secure a place in the national team too."

Lions in the hunt

The right-footer learned his trade with the Kagoshima Jitsugyo Highschool Team on his way into the J-League with Kashima Antlers. With the seven-time Japanese champions, Osako scored 57 goals in 179 appearances, earning his place in the national team and, consequently, a move to 1860 Munich, where he will wear the number 18 shirt.

Friedhelm Funkel's team lie in eighth position after 19 rounds of matches, with only three points separating them from third-placed 1. FC Kaiserslautern and a promotion play-off berth. The Bavarians will host Fortuna Düsseldorf in their first outing after the winter break on 10 February.