After a deeply frustrating second season with Manchester United, attacking midfielder Shinji Kagawa admitted he was both delighted and relieved to be named to Japan’s 23-man squad for the World Cup finals in Brazil on Monday — after learning of the news from a cabin attendant on his flight into Tokyo.
“It wasn’t announced on the plane, a regular cabin attendant gave me the message (via the pilot),” Kagawa told reporters after landing in at Haneda airport. “Quite simply I am relieved. But (just) being a member of the team is not my goal. My aim is to deliver results.”
“I was really disappointed about missing out (on a place in the squad four years ago) in South Africa and went to Germany (to join Borussia Dortmund) to improve myself,” said Kagawa, who was among a handful of young non-squad players that traveled with the team to the 2010 finals to gain experience.
“Over these past four years my goal has been Brazil and I think I am here now (in this position) because I fought and believed in myself. Hopefully I can express that on the pitch.”
The 25-year-old Kagawa suffered from a serious lack of playing time with United this season under recently sacked manager David Moyes and finished the campaign without a single goal.
“I have experienced a lot in Europe over these four years, especially this year. I had won the league the previous three years (twice with Dortmund and once with United). This year the manager changed and it has been a really hard year in many ways but I think it has been really good for me to experience both good times and bad times at the top level in Europe.”
“There have been times when I thought my spirit would break and I just thought I have to believe in myself. In the end it has been a really disappointing season what with not scoring a single goal but I was never slacked off in training or matches.”
Now Kagawa says he is determined to make up for the disappointment on a World Cup stage he has dreamed of playing on since his childhood.
“I can play on a World Cup stage that I have dreamed about since I was little. I am not only going to enjoy it, I want to attach my mind to getting results.”
Japan open their Group C campaign in Brazil against Ivory Coast on June 14, then play Greece on June 19 and Colombia on June 24.
“For the team I think our first game against Ivory Coast is crucial. Obviously we are in it to win the tournament but that is not something you can say lightly and I want to focus on Ivory Coast.”
Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni said he was hoping to get the most out of Kagawa as he announced his squad.
“When you speak about a player you’ve got to talk about his team as well. Last season, the club did well and so did Kagawa,” the Italian told a press conference.
“This season, (United) weren’t able to put together the team they had in mind and that affected Kagawa; that’s all there is to it, I think. As I put the finishing touches to the team, I want to make sure I get the most out of Kagawa along the way.”