Kagawa: Create and be clinical

Kagawa: Create and be clinical
The experience of playing in Europe for the likes of Borussia Dortmund's Shinji Kagawa (centre) is seen by team-mates as giving the Blue Samurai more bite against Singapore.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Earphones plugged in and with his gaze fixed firmly ahead, Japan star Shinji Kagawa looked a picture of focus as he entered Bishan Stadium yesterday.

He paid absolutely no attention to the plethora of photographers snapping away at him and headed straight into the dressing room, before emerging shortly after with the same intense look..

His demeanour was perhaps expected, given Japan are here on a mission they are expected to accomplish: Collect maximum points in tomorrow's World Cup/Asian Cup Group E qualifier against Singapore at the National Stadium.

Then, balls were brought out as the Samurai Blue were split into three groups for a warm-up game of monkey.

Almost every touch of his was deft, quick yet precise - the exact qualities that saw him first earn a move to Europe with German side Borussia Dortmund, before switching to English giants Manchester United.

But, within seconds of the start of the warm-up session, after witnessing a teammate make a comical mistake, Kagawa broke into a hearty laugh reminiscent of the one that had the Dortmund faithful falling in love with him, yet was conspicuously absent throughout most of his time at Old Trafford.

Even from the mere 15 minutes the media were allowed to witness before Japan closed the doors to yesterday's training session, it was clear for all to see.

Be it playfully flinging a training bib at Leicester striker Shinji Okazaki or sharing a joke with Inter Milan fullback Yuto Nagatomo, Kagawa - now back at Dortmund - is enjoying his football once again.

Still, while Japanese fans will be glad to see their key attacker smiling once more, it will be no laughing matter should they fail to beat the Lions tomorrow.

STALEMATE

Kagawa started for Japan in their previous meeting with Singapore in Saitama back in June, only to be replaced just after an hour in the stunning 0-0 stalemate.

The 26-year-old Japanese believes they will be up against a similar test against the Lions tomorrow, and believes it is down to them to rise to the challenge.

"I'm expecting Singapore to adopt a very defensive approach once more," he said yesterday.

"This makes it important that we create as many chances as we can, and we also have to be clinical when the opportunities do come our way.

"We will also have to press the Singapore defenders much harder to prevent them from getting time on the ball, so the forwards will have to work hard. It's also important that we show better communication than we did (in the 0-0 draw)."

Having opened the scoring in Dortmund's 3-2 derby win over Schalke last Sunday, Kagawa, like Nagatomo, flew into Singapore only on Monday night.

Kagawa is still expected to be named in coach Vahid Halilhodzic's starting 11 tomorrow despite concerns over fatigue and jet-lag, and he insists he will do everything possible to be in top condition.

"Heavy," he replied, when asked how he was feeling after his first session in Singapore.

"But, over the next two days, I will continue to work hard to make sure I'm ready for the match."


This article was first published on Nov 11, 2015.
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