Japan's Shinji Okazaki is desperate for more playing time to put himself in contention for the AFC Asian Cup's golden boot award after his hat-trick propelled the Blue Samurai into the quarter-finals.
Okazaki, who has been linked with a move to Stuttgart, scored three times in the 5-0 rout of Saudi Arabia in Japan's final group game when he made the starting line-up for the first time in Doha, filling in for the injured Keisuke Honda. The Shimizu S-Pulse forward trails by one goal from Bahrain's Ismaeel Abdullatif and Koo Ja-Cheol of Korea Republic, who have each struck four times to top the scoring leaderboard of the continental showcase.
"Yes, indeed," the 24-year-old said, when asked if he wants the golden boot in his first Asian Cup. "It will depend on whether they give me a chance to play. If they do, I must work well as part of the team as a matter of course," the Shimizu S-Pulse forward said.
"I will fight and defend first and foremost. Definitely there will be a chance to score and I want to be able to finish it," added Okazaki, who scored in Japan's 3-1 defeat of Denmark in their final FIFA World Cup™ group match last year.
The hat-trick against the Saudis boosted his international record to 21 goals in 38 games since 2008. "I scored the first two goals as I usually do and the third goal proved I was in top form. That has given me confidence and I want to convert it into coming matches," he said.
"I have felt other Asian players tend to press hard in defence at the outset of the game. So I will try to get behind defenders. If I break into dangerous spots, it will prove dangerous to our opponents."