ITU, BRAZIL – Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa has admitted he deserved to start on the bench in Thursday’s 0-0 draw against Greece after struggling in Japan’s opening game at the World Cup.
Although coach Alberto Zaccheroni told reporters after the Greece match that his decision to start Yoshito Okubo instead of Kagawa was for “tactical reasons,” Kagawa was not altogether surprised at the move given his poor performance in the Samurai Blue’s 2-1 defeat to Cote d’Ivoire.
“I found out before the game that I was not going to start and you will have to ask the coach what his intentions were, but I thought I would come on in the second half and I just had to prepare myself,” Kagawa told Kyodo News after Friday’s training session.
“I thought there was some possibility that I might not start but I was ready to accept that. I wasn’t convinced with the way I played (against Cote d’Ivoire) and neither was the coach.
“I got myself prepared (for Greece) but at the end of the day it is up to the coach. I had to respect that.”
Kagawa, who struggled to get playing time at United last season and finished the campaign without a single goal, came on for Yuya Osako in the 57th minute on Thursday.
But he failed to spark the Asian champions, who struggled to break down the Greeks as they defended en masse following the dismissal of captain Konstantinos Katsouranis late in the first half.
Zaccheroni said after the game that Kagawa’s benching was dictated by tactics rather than his form.
“It was a tactical choice,” the Italian said. “We wanted to make them work on the wings, which is where they usually begin their buildup. When Kagawa plays wide, he usually likes to cut in, which would’ve made what we wanted to do difficult.”
Japan’s failure to capitalize on its numerical advantage means it now goes into its final Group C game against already qualified Colombia needing a victory plus a favorable result in the game between Greece and Cote d’Ivoire.
As it stands, Colombia has six points, Cote d’Ivoire has three and Greece and Japan both have a point each. Colombia smashed Greece 3-0 in their first game and beat Cote d’Ivoire 2-1 on Thursday.
“They (Colombia) really went at Cote d’Ivoire and we have to be even more aggressive when we play them. If we can seize control of the game then chances will come our way,” said Kagawa.
“The result of the other game (between Cote d’Ivoire and Greece) comes into play but we just have to go out there and try and win the game. The rest is down to fate.
“We don’t know what is going to happen in the other game and all we can do is prepare ourselves as best we can for Colombia.”