KAZAN, RUSSIA - With several games at this World Cup so far having been decided by penalties and free kicks, Japan will be looking to avoid costly fouls when it faces Colombia in its opening match, defender Gotoku Sakai said Sunday.
The Hamburg right back said the issue had been discussed among the players after watching group-stage games that were impacted by fouls in defensive areas.
“We’ve talked about it with each other. Sometimes fouls can’t be avoided, but there are certain situations where you absolutely don’t want to give one away,” the 27-year-old said following Japan’s final training session in Kazan before Tuesday’s Group H clash.
“It’s vital to be able to contain the opposition without fouling.”
In one of the highlights of the tournament so far, Cristiano Ronaldo scored with a spectacular free kick from outside the penalty area to snatch a 3-3 draw for Portugal against Spain in their opening Group B match on Friday.
Meanwhile, two of the three goals in France’s 2-1 win over Australia in Group C the following day came from the penalty spot.
Colombia striker Radamel Falcao has shown himself to be dangerous with the dead ball, while star playmaker James Rodriguez, who remains in doubt for the match with a calf injury, has numerous highlight free-kick goals under his belt.
Japan forward Shinji Okazaki is continuing to battle his own calf problem and is also in doubt for the match in Saransk.
The Leicester City forward will travel with the team by charter to Saransk despite being unable to train with the rest of the squad since arriving in Kazan on Wednesday.
After playing the first 74 minutes of Japan’s 4-2 friendly win over Paraguay on Tuesday, Okazaki experienced tightness in his right hip and both calves.
The 32-year-old continues to be troubled by his right calf and has been working one-on-one with a trainer in a bid to be fit in time for the match.
The Samurai Blue are scheduled to depart Kazan on Sunday evening for the 400-km journey to Saransk, the regional capital of Mordovia on Russia’s East European Plain.