RIFU, MIYAGI PREF. – Rising star Cerezo Osaka striker Yoichiro Kakitani is relishing the prospect of making Japanese soccer history in Wednesday’s friendly with South American champion Uruguay.
Kakitani earned his first call-up last month and responded by scoring three goals in two games at the East Asian Cup, including a double that helped the Blue Samurai beat host South Korea in the last match of the tournament and win the regional title for the first time.
And another goal against Uruguay would see him become the first national team player to score in all of his first three games.
“If that turns out to be the end result, then obviously I would be delighted, but the main thing that I am hoping for is that I get a chance to play,” Kakitani told Kyodo News after Tuesday’s training session.
“Scoring goals is what is being asked of me, not just for the national team but for my club as well. If I play (on Wednesday) then I will just try and do what I have to do.”
The 23-year-old celebrated retaining his place in the squad by scoring a first-half brace and creating a third in Cerezo’s 3-0 win over Omiya Ardija at the weekend.
And he was in a relaxed mood as he spoke to reporters after training alongside Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa, a former teammate at Cerezo, and several other European-based first team regulars.
“The squad is quite a bit different to the one we had at the East Asian Cup and I have been trying to integrate. The training itself has been the same here more or less as it was in South Korea, but obviously I am more conscious of the fact that we have Uruguay up next.”
For Kagawa and many of the rest of the squad, Wednesday’s match will be their first since Japan lost all three of their first-round games at the Confederations Cup this summer.
“We got beaten three times at the Confeds and this will be the first game since then and we have to make use of that experience and try and move forward,” said Kagawa.
“We have to restart well and try and get a good result tomorrow.”