Japan defender Makino joins Cologne

BERLIN, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Japan defender Tomoaki Makino has joined Bundesliga strugglers Cologne from J-League side Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

"I've been observing the player for a long time and I'm convinced of his qualities," Cologne sporting director Volker Finke told the club's website on Friday.

The 23-year-old Makino has been included in Japan's squad for next month's Asian championship in Qatar and will join up with his Cologne team mates at the end of the tournament.

He was included in the J-League's team of the season but was left out of Japan's squad for this year's World Cup.

Makino joins fellow countrymen Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund), Atsuto Uchida (Schalke 04), Makoto Hasebe (VfL Wolfsburg) and Kisho Yano (Freiburg) in the Bundesliga.

The previously-unknown Kagawa has been one of the revelations of the season, scoring eight league goals to help Dortmund reach the winter break on top of the table.

Cologne are 16th - which would mean taking part in a promotion/relegation playoff if that is where they finished - with 15 points from 17 games.