Kagawa invigorated by performance against New Zealand

by Andrew Mckirdy

Staff Writer

Shinji Kagawa believes he can rescue his Manchester United career after starring in Japan’s 4-2 friendly win over New Zealand on Wednesday night.

Kagawa set up Shinji Okazaki for Japan’s opener before winning and converting a penalty himself at National Stadium, and also had a hand in Okazaki’s second of the evening as the home side raced to a four-goal lead inside 17 minutes.

Kagawa has made just nine Premier League appearances without scoring a single goal for United under manager David Moyes this season, but the attacking midfielder is confident of turning things around after completing an impressive 79 minutes for his country.

“I was determined to deliver tonight, and I’m really happy that I did,” said Kagawa, who has been the subject of speculation that he could leave United in the summer. “I always want to score in every game I play in, so now I think I can go back to Manchester in good shape. We have to win every game from now on if we want to win the championship.

“The goals tonight really came from their mistakes rather than anything we created, so we’re not ready for the World Cup just yet. Personally I was very happy to score, but physically I dropped off in the second half and I’m not really sure why. That’s something I have to think about.”

Wednesday’s game was Japan’s last before manager Alberto Zaccheroni picks his 23-man squad for the World Cup in Brazil this summer, but the Italian was keen to stress that the door remains open for players hoping to make the cut.

“It’s unfortunate that there are no games left before I pick the squad, but the players will still be playing for their clubs and I expect them to keep showing me what they can do,” said Zaccheroni. “I haven’t decided which 23 players I will pick, and I want all the players in Japan and abroad to keep giving it everything.

“This game gave me the chance to see several players who I haven’t seen much of, and I wanted to see how the newer players fitted in. It was especially good for the first 20 minutes, where we were able to play with skill at a high speed. That’s what you need to compete at international level.”

Japan looked set to run riot after scoring four goals with less than a quarter of the match gone, but New Zealand recovered to stem the tide and score two of its own through Leicester City striker Chris Wood.

Japan has now conceded 29 goals in its last 15 games, and Zaccheroni admits the team’s defending remains a cause for concern.

“Overall we were stronger than our opponents,” he said. “The tempo dropped off after 20 minutes and maybe the players were thinking about avoiding injuries, but it was useful for me to see how the players cope in such a situation. But we do need to reduce the number of goals we concede.”

New Zealand failed to qualify for the World Cup after losing a playoff against Mexico, but manager Neil Emblen believes Japan will be a match for anybody after seeing his side torn apart in the opening 20 minutes.

“With the Japanese team, I can’t see too many weak things there,” he said. “Going forward they are just a fantastic team, with the movement between Honda and Kagawa. (Yuto) Nagatomo was absolutely outstanding tonight. He just amazed me with the way he attacked down the left-hand side.

“I definitely feel the left-hand side is stronger than the right-hand side, but that’s not to say the right-hand side is weak. I’m not going to say the Japan team is weak in any area. They’re a great team and I hope they do well at the World Cup.”

  • Danny

    They’re missing Atsuto Uchida, who is not only a great Right Back for Japan, but one of Germany’s Bundesliga best. It’s fine saying they’re weak on the right.

    Congratulations, Japan and Kagawa, but needs to work on stamina and defense.