11:36 14 June 2014
Soccer: Kagawa wants to put Japan on map of world football
By Shintaro Kano
RECIFE, Brazil, June 13, Kyodo
Shinji Kagawa plans to end the four-year wait for his World Cup debut by helping put Japan on the map of global football powers in Brazil.
The Manchester United midfielder said on the eve of Japan's World Cup opener against Ivory Coast on Saturday that the Blue Samurai, despite their rise in recent years, still have a lot to prove.
Kagawa himself has done a lot of proving since 2010, when he missed Takeshi Okada's cut for South Africa. He transferred to Borussia Dortmund following the World Cup, which led to his move to Old Trafford two years ago, and he has made the left wing berth his to lose in Alberto Zaccheroni's first team.
"We want the world to find out about Japan and how well we're capable of playing," Kagawa said. "Because I still don't think we're that well known yet around the world."
"We go into the game like we always do through our usual preparations. Naturally, I think each and every one of us feels a bit of pressure because this is a massive tournament."
"But we've got to use that to get the most out of ourselves. We've always felt the first game is crucial. We need to have faith in one another and keep fighting."
Japan's Group C, which also includes Greece and Colombia, is regarded as being wide open. Winning Saturday's match will send Zaccheroni's men a long way toward qualifying for the second round.
But if Japan are to overcome the physicality of the Ivorians, they must do it all for one, one for all.
"We've got to play as a team at both ends of the pitch in order for us to have a chance of winning," he said. "Everyone has to work hard; it was like that four years ago."
"Most teams tend to be conservative in the first game. Not a whole lot separates you from the opposition; it's about concentration, or one lapse of it."
"We believe we can do it, and we've got to believe we can do it. I'm excited."