It’s not enough that he has just become the highest-scoring Japanese football player in a single season in the Bundesliga. Japanese striker for German club Mainz Shinji Okazaki has set a high goal for himself and his national teammates and that is to reach the quarterfinals in the upcoming World Cup this June in Brazil.
The 28-year old has high hopes for the Samurai Blue to reach the quarterfinals of the world’s biggest sports tournament. “Our will to survive the World Cup group phase is huge and the fans expect that of us. We have the chance to get out of the last 16 for the first time, many of our players are active abroad, some at top clubs, so the expectations in Japan have grown,” said Okazaki.
Japan has been included in Group C along with Ivory Coast, Greece and Colombia. Looking back at their winless Confederations Cup last year also in Brazil, he noted that the team at that time was lacking a “winning mentality.” Hopefully, adjustments have been made to better prepare the team under Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni. As proof of their hard work in preparing for the World Cup, they beat New Zealand with a 4-1 victory in a friendly last week.
The team will hold a training camp in Miami before heading to Brazil to prepare themselves for the humid playing conditions. “It’s going to be very hot, which will make it very difficult,” he said. “You don’t have to change your game, but you have to get used to the climate,” added Okazaki.