Japan's low-scoring forwards are focused on finding the back of the Dutch net in their FIFA World Cup™ clash on Saturday after they were upstaged by star midfielder Keisuke Honda's winning goal against Cameroon.
Boosted by the 1-0 win in their opening game on Monday, the Blue Samurai believe they can at least frustrate Group E favourites the Netherlands as they did in a friendly loss away last September.
Honda, who helped CSKA Moscow reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals after moving from Dutch side VVV Venlo in January, played as a lone frontman against Cameroon and scored in the 39th minute with a clinical finish.
Forward Shinji Okazaki, 24, revealed there was intense competition between the Japanese strikers. "Keisuke got the one chance and he put it away to prove his goalscoring skills. I can't be outdone because we are the same age," he said. I can't go home like this. I hope I can score a goal against the Dutch."
Okazaki scored 15 international goals last year, but has so far found the target just this year. He came close to doubling that tally when coach Takeshi Okada sent him on to replace French-based midfielder Daisuke Matsui in the 68th minute against Cameroon, but his shot slammed off the post.
Striker Takayuki Morimoto, who was sidelined in the Cameroon match, said he too would be looking to score if called upon against the Netherlands. "Coach Okada uses players for clear purposes. He needs a goal when he sends me in. I will go for goal when I am sent in," said the 22-year-old, who has scored one goal, against Togo, since his international debut last October. "The Netherlands are strong but it is not impossible to beat them. I want to capitalise on a rare chance we may get."
Japanese forwards have failed to score in four friendlies since Okazaki struck along with Honda in a 2-0 win over Bahrain in an Asian Cup qualifier in March. In a friendly against the Dutch in Enschede in September, the former Asian champions dominated in the early stages before eventually crumbling to a 3-0 defeat, conceding three goals in the last 20 minutes.