BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL – Shinji Kagawa hopes to seize his Mexican matchup against Manchester United teammate Javier Hernandez, to give Japan its first points before bowing out of the Confederations Cup on Saturday.
“Hernandez is a great striker,” Kagawa said on the eve of Japan’s last Group A game against Mexico, which was also eliminated from the next stage. “We need to defend him as a team or he will punish you.
“I know nothing is riding on it so it will be difficult to get motivated. But we need to get up for it one last time to build on for the future.”
Japan went down swinging 4-3 to Italy on Wednesday, when Kagawa was named man of the match after his half-volley gave the Asian champions a 2-0 advantage.
But Alberto Zaccheroni’s side failed to hold on, allowing Italy the next three goals. Japan leveled through Shinji Okazaki, but the Azzurri won it four minutes to time with the decisive fourth against the run of play.
Maya Yoshida, who captained the team in London, insisted the match won’t be about payback (Japan lost to the Mexicans 3-1 in the semifinals at the London Olympics), but about Japan not leaving Brazil empty-handed.