Gamba striker Usami hopes to play for Japan in Rio


Gamba Osaka striker Takashi Usami said he is eager to go to the Summer Games again, making his pitch to play for Japan at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics as one of three overage players each team will be allowed.

“If I’m needed, I’m there,” Usami said on Wednesday, a night after Japan qualified for its sixth successive Olympics in men’s soccer with a last-minute 2-1 victory over Iraq at the Asian Under-23 Championship in Doha.

“You have to strive to be good enough, to make them want to call you up.”

Usami, who turns 24 in May, appeared without scoring at the 2012 Olympics in London for Takashi Sekizuka’s side at the under-23 competition. Japan almost won its first medal since 1968, but lost to South Korea in the bronze-medal game.

Since then, Usami has developed into a centerpiece for the full national team, helping Gamba win the 2014 Japanese treble. He credited Japan for its performance against Iraq, a team Makoto Teguramori’s men had not been able to defeat until Tuesday.

“They got the job done at the death against a side they couldn’t beat. It must have been a very tough game mentally,” Usami said.