Japan’s star player Shinji Kagawa has spoken on his side’s World Cup chances ahead of their opening game against Ivory Coast on June 14.
With Greece and Colombia the other two teams pitted against the Asian outfit, the four make up one of the tournament’s most open and tough-to-call groups, but Kagawa is taking nothing for granted.
‘The World Cup is different from friendly matches as everybody’s level is high during the tournament,’ the attacking midfielder said. ‘We might not get many chances in Brazil so we need to take advantage of the few we will.’
With a sizeable portion of their squad now playing their club football in Europe, Japan are considered to be one of the tournament’s dark horses by many, and former AC Milan and Juventus manager Alberto Zaccheroni has plenty of attacking talent at his disposal.
Boasting 56 caps and 17 international goals, Kagawa is arguably the side’s most crucial piece, along with AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda, and the hopes of the nation will be largely pinned on how well the two playmakers perform over the coming weeks.
However, the 25-year-old is coming off a poor season with Manchester United in which he struggled for playing time under the since-departed David Moyes, being restricted to just 18 Premier League appearances.
The former Borussia Dortmund player has shown some flashes of brilliance during his two seasons at the club though, while being widely regarded as one of the most promising stars in the Bundesliga prior to his £17 million move to Old Trafford in June 2012.
As Kagawa sets out to prove his doubters wrong this summer, the World Cup could be crucial towards determining whether the highly-rated Japan international has a role at United next season under new manager Louis van Gaal.
While an impressive set of displays would likely pave the way for a fresh start, a lacklustre tournament could well throw his future into further doubt.