We cannot let Singapore off hook this time, says Kagawa

We cannot let Singapore off hook this time, says Kagawa
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

Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa has fired a warning shot, calling on his side to press even harder for goals in tomorrow's World Cup qualifier against Singapore.

The 26-year-old told The Straits Times after the Japan team's training session at the Bishan Stadium yesterday evening: "Whenever we get the chance, we must score.

"We must create more chances.

"In the last match (a 0-0 draw against Singapore in Saitama), we attacked a lot but we didn't manage to score.

"We will have to be aggressive and go for the ball even more, and I hope we make the most of our chances this time."

The former Manchester United player noted that in order to find a way past the Lions' defence - a task they failed to accomplish the last time they met in June - they will need the help of their wingers.

"In the last game, a lot of play was focused at the centre.

"But the flankers are also important, crosses are important too," said Kagawa, who scored in Borussia Dortmund's 3-2 win over Schalke in the Bundesliga on Sunday, his third strike in 12 league matches.

Striker Genki Haraguchi, who plays for German team Hertha Berlin, believes that the experience of playing in a top European league will give the Japanese an advantage.

Out of the 23-strong squad, 11 of them are based overseas.

Six play in the German league.

Haraguchi, 24, said: "I hope that the players who play in Germany will be able to perform like how we play over there."

Kagawa had arrived in Singapore only on Monday night, nearly a day after the rest of the team arrived.

About 20 fans, mostly Japanese, turned up at the stadium yesterday hoping to catch a glimpse of their favourite players. But most left when they were unable to enter the spectator stands as the training took place behind closed doors.

The few who stayed were rewarded when players stopped briefly to sign autographs as they made their way to the team bus after the training ended.

Japanese fan Reika Igaki, 28, was delighted when six players, including Leicester striker Shinji Okazaki and AC Milan's Keisuke Honda, signed on her three-year-old daughter's jersey.

The Osaka native said: "In Japan, it's either hard to get the tickets because they're always sold out, or the stadiums are far from where I live.

"But now that I am based in Singapore, this is the second time I am going to watch them play."

This article was first published on Nov 11.
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