Kawaharazuka: It's not about me
Japan are one of only four teams to have qualified for every FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, and their experience is likely to prove invaluable at this year's edition in Ravenna. Takeshi Kawaharazuka will be taking part in his fifth consecutive tournament, and the 36-year-old is confident this will serve him well on the Adriatic coast.
"We have a lot of players in the team who have already played in World Cups," Kawaharazuka told FIFA.com. "The team has continued to develop over the last few years and we've improved in many areas, both technically and tactically."
The Japan captain is the highest-scoring Asian in the history of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup with ten goals, a tally he is hoping to extend at the Stadio del Mare in Ravenna.
"Of course it would be great if I could score a few more goals here," said the striker. "Still, the main thing is the success of the team. We have a lot of strong players among our ranks and all of them are capable of scoring at any time. It's not about me, it's about the team. We want to be successful together."
Japan's route to potential glory is likely to be treacherous. The Asian champions have been drawn along with four-time winners Brazil, CONCACAF champions Mexico and UEFA qualification winners Ukraine in Group D.
"It's probably the most difficult group at the tournament. All our opponents won their continental competitions," said Kawaharazuka, who nonetheless took confidence from his team's recent 2-1 friendly victory over hosts Italy. "That was a good result. We certainly didn't play as well as we can do, but we looked good for long periods, especially in our ability to get forward quickly."
The catastrophic earthquake and tsunami which devastated the north of Japan and shocked the rest of the world on 11 March provides Kawaharazuka and his colleagues with further inspiration: "That was an unbelievably sad day and an enormously difficult time for the people of Japan. We're going to perform with heart and passion and hopefully that will go some small way to cheering up the people back home."
The experienced goal-getter is hungry to write another chapter in the successful history of Japanese football, especially after the senior national side won the AFC Asian Cup and the women famously lifted the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011™ in Germany earlier this year: "Of course we want to continue that momentum. Hopefully we can get a medal or even the title."