BONN – Shunsuke Nakamura is confident he will be fit to start Japan’s World Cup opener against Australia on Monday despite concerns over an injury sustained in training.
Nakamura left a practice session early for the second day running on Thursday with sore tendons in the back of his left knee.
Japan’s floppy-fringed playmaker later emerged in front of journalists with his left leg strapped with ice but allayed fears he won’t be ready for Japan’s opening game on June 12 against Australia in Kaiserslautern.
“I think I will be OK for the game,” Nakamura told reporters. “It hurts but the pain should go away by tomorrow or the day after tomorrow,” he said.
“When I accelerate and try to do short sprints it hurts, but by tomorrow it should be able to take the strain more.”
It was initially feared that Nakamura had hurt the muscles in his left hamstring during training on Wednesday, but the Japan team doctor told the midfielder it was a less severe injury and that he had in fact tweaked the tendons in his left knee.
The 27-year-old’s injury is another headache for coach Zico, who has been fretting over the fitness of strikers Naohiro Takahara and Atsushi Yanagisawa and right-side wingback Akira Kaji.
Kaji was limited to jogging for the second straight day Thursday and is still Japan’s biggest injury concern more than one week after the Gamba Osaka player hurt his ankle after a wild challenge by Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger in the 2-2 draw.
Takahara scored Japan’s two goals in that game but also injured his knee, while Yanagisawa suffered a hamstring injury and both missed the 1-0 victory over Malta four days later.
But Zico’s No. 1 strike partnership trained on Thursday and Takahara told reporters he is well on the road to recovery and will be ready for the Australia game. The German-based forward, who recently moved from Hamburg SV to Eintracht Frankfurt, said he was keeping his fingers crossed Kashima Antlers’ Yanagisawa would join him in attack.
Japan plays Croatia on June 18 and Brazil on June 22 in its other Group F games.