SAITAMA – Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima will be looking to make amends for a rare blunder and help guarantee Japan’s World Cup qualification for Brazil 2014 with a clean sheet in Tuesday’s Group B clash with Australia.
Kawashima, one of the stars of Japan’s run to the round of 16 on his World Cup debut in South Africa three years ago, conceded a soft goal in a comprehensive 2-0 defeat to Bulgaria at Toyota Stadium on Thursday, allowing Stanislav Manolev’s third-minute free kick to skid off his rain-slick fists and into the back of the net.
“Sometimes these games happen and we have to leave everything behind. We were simply not good enough and I think that has made us really focused on the next game the day after tomorrow,” Kawashima said after training on Sunday.
“I feel responsible for what happened (against Bulgaria). But I don’t think that was the only game that we could not play well. It happens sometimes when we haven’t had a training camp in a long time.”
That Tuesday’s game will be played in Saitama holds extra significance for Kawashima, who hails from the prefecture north of Tokyo.
“I am happy that such a massive game for us is being played here (in Saitama). I really want us to get a result,” said Kawashima.
“We have destiny in our own hands. A defeat for our opponents would make things very difficult for them and they will be coming right out at us. We all know how high the expectations of our fans here at home will be and we have a responsibility to respond to those expectations. We can’t turn back the clock and change what happened (on Thursday). We have to pull our socks up and make sure we are all working toward the same objective.”
Japan will be boosted by the return of Keisuke Honda, who joins the squad on Monday on a high having completed a league-and-cup double with CSKA Moscow in Saturday’s victory in the Russian Cup final.
“I think that he (Honda) can come back in a good mood because he won the cup. Everybody on the pitch will try to do their best but obviously he is a very important player in our team,” said Kawashima.