Japan captain concentrates on qualifying in style

Japan will not settle for a draw in Thursday’s World Cup Group E showdown with Denmark even though a point will be enough to qualify for the second round, captain Makoto Hasebe said on Wednesday.

Japan, defensively strong, need only a draw to make sure of clinching second place behind The Netherlands and progressing to the second round with a superior goal difference.

But midfielder Hasebe told reporters that a draw was not in their minds.

“This match is truly a very important one for all of us and I feel we have staked our whole lives on this. We are not aiming for a draw, but for a victory.”

Coach Takeshi Okada said the game, which Denmark must win if they are to avoid elimination, was a contest of great significance not only for his team, but for Japanese football.

He said that after beating Cameroon 1-0 and losing to the Netherlands by the same score, it was important for his team to attack and to score.

“In the last two days, we have relaxed and built up for this game and in our team meeting today I told my players not to think about a draw. We have to score a goal and we have to win.”

Both men added that they believed Japan’s team at these finals has now developed into a strong unit with great self-belief.

“We were not at our best in the preparation period in May, but were going through a period of trial by errors,” said Hasebe.
“Now this team is united as one whole and it is truly strong.

“This has been a natural process and all the players, even those who are not selected, help by taking care of each other.”

Asked about Denmark’s potential height advantage and aerial threat, Okada said his team would be quick to block crosses and react to any rebounds. “We will do our best and, for the rest, God will decide,” he said.

“I am thinking only of winning. I am not considering that we may lose, but if we do and if we deserve criticism, we will have to accept it.”—Reuters

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