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Nakamura may miss England match

by Gus Fielding

Kyodo News

Influential midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura is a major doubt for Japan’s penultimate World Cup warmup match against England in Austria on Sunday.

“Shunsuke needs a bit more time to get back to his best condition and I am not sure if he can play,” coach Takeshi Okada said on Friday at Japan’s training camp.

The 31-year-old Nakamura has been struggling with a sore left ankle and only played the first half of an intrasquad match behind closed doors before spending the rest of Friday’s session training alone.

“I only played the first half and then I was training on my own,” Nakamura said. “I was seeing how my ankle would hold up and have had an injection which is helping.”

Asked if he thought he would be involved against England, Nakamura replied, “I haven’t been told anything.”

Nakamura looked sluggish in Monday’s 2-0 defeat at home to South Korea and was replaced midway through the second half by Catania striker Takayuki Morimoto.

Having lost three of its last four home games, Japan is badly in need of a tonic ahead of the finals in South Africa, where the three-time Asian champions are drawn in a tough Group E alongside Cameroon, Netherlands and Denmark.

Defender Yuto Nagatomo said, “(England) are formidable opponents for sure but that doesn’t mean we have no chance of beating them.”

Goalkeeper and team captain Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, who has experience playing in England with Portsmouth, added, “We will be playing strong opponents and need to challenge. We need to see what we are capable of doing and feel that in our bones.

“We have had a team meeting that I thought would only last 15 minutes but went on for more than an hour and all the players realize that what we need to do is start getting our hands dirty,” he said.

Sunday’s game in Austria will be England’s last warm-up before it opens its World Cup campaign against the United States in Rustenburg in Group C on June 12.