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World Cup hopeful Kawamata eager to impress Zaccheroni

by Gus Fielding

Kyodo

Albirex Niigata striker Kengo Kawamata has played down his chances of making Japan’s World Cup squad, and says he just wants to focus on making an impression on coach Alberto Zaccheroni at the national team’s training camp in Chiba Prefecture.

Kawamata has until now been overlooked for selection by Zaccheroni despite scoring 23 times in 32 league games for Albirex last season, but he has been given the chance to stake a late claim for a place in Brazil at the three-day camp for J. League players.

Speaking to reporters after Zaccheroni put the squad through a 70-minute session, Kawamata said, “I want to show what I am made of and make an impression when we have a match on the final day of the camp.

“It wasn’t really full-on practice today, I just learned about the team concept. I was a bit hesitant at the start but gradually fitted in.”

Zaccheroni, who has come in for criticism in some quarters for not picking Kawamata earlier, is scheduled to name his 23-man squad for Brazil on May 12.

But Kawamata said he was not looking that far ahead and just focusing on the task at hand.

“It is my dream to play at the World Cup, but I am not looking at that just yet,” he said. “I am just going to take each day as it comes here. I just want to show off my qualities and send a message (to Zaccheroni).”

Along with the 24-year-old Kawamata, who was the second-top goalscorer in J1 behind Yoshito Okubo last season, Cerezo Osaka pair Takumi Minamino and Tatsuya Yamashita, Kawasaki Frontale’s Yu Kobayashi, Tsukasa Shiotani of Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Omiya Ardija’s Tomoki Imai and Gen Shoji of Kashima Antlers were called up for the first time.

Kobayashi pulled out of the camp injured and was replaced by Sanfrecce Hiroshima striker Naoki Ishihara on Sunday.

Japan first-team defenders Atsuto Uchida and Maya Yoshida are both carrying injuries and Shiotani, who has been in sparkling form for Hiroshima, also said he was determined to seize his chance.

“I have been scoring goals, am in good form and I think that is why I have been picked for this camp,” he said. “I think there is still a chance for the World Cup and want to do well here.”