IBUSUKI, KAGOSHIMA PREF. – Japan midfielder Shinji Kagawa was unfazed by new Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal’s appointment as he and the players had known the Dutchman would take over at Old Trafford next season.
“We’ve known for some time it was going to be him,” Kagawa said on Wednesday after Japan’s first training session in Kagoshima Prefecture for the World Cup.
“We’ve got the World Cup first so I’ll deal with all that after this is over.”
Twenty of Alberto Zaccheroni’s 23 for the June 12-July 13 tournament gathered on Wednesday. Midfielder Keisuke Honda, defender Yuto Nagatomo and goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima will join the squad on Friday.
Japan will go through two-a-days until Sunday, when they head back to Tokyo, where the players will be fitted for their World Cup shirts.
The Asian champions face Cyprus in their send-off on Tuesday before leaving for training camp in the United States two days later. Their first match at the World Cup is June 14 against Ivory Coast.
After a finishing without a goal in his second season at United, Kagawa is starving for a good World Cup, which would certainly help his case with van Gaal, who will be coaching the Netherlands in Brazil.
Kagawa, however, made it clear he is not going to the World Cup to impress van Gaal but to help Japan attain the goal of winning the competition.
“I think everyone knows I want to do well at the World Cup, and I’m sure everyone else does, too,” he said. “But I don’t want to get my priorities mixed up here; the important thing is for Japan to win at the World Cup.”
“I’m not using the World Cup as a place to showcase myself for (the new manager).”
The former Dortmund man stressed the key toward performing well in the heat and humidity of Brazil would be fitness.
“I basically want to keep doing what I did at Manchester United. I made sure I got the work in after games I didn’t play in. I know how to get myself into shape,” Kagawa said. “I was able to stay motivated despite the year I had because I had the World Cup to look forward to.”
“We’ve got to really push ourselves physically. For the first two, three days here it’s going to be brutal on our bodies. The first team we play are physically strong, but the manager will come up with a good plan for us.”
“But like I said, fitness is so important. Everyone’s together now and we’re gunning for the World Cup. There’s a good vibe on the squad.”