Japan may have moved to within one win away from the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, but Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura says they must improve further to stay on course. After a scoreless first half on 28 March, Japan got off to a flying start in the second half with Nakamura opening the scoring in the 47th minute to beat Bahrain 1-0 in an Asian qualifier. Japan now have three wins and two draws for 11 points to lead in the five-team Group 1 competition, overtaking Australia's ten points. Bahrain, Uzbekistan and Qatar have all four points.
"I don't feel like we qualified yet. We have too many things to improve further," said Nakamura. "We have to play more scrupulously in every play. We should exchange passes without looking round."
Coach Takeshi Okada agreed, saying: "We haven't gained anything yet. We have to improve the quality of our play to get stronger." Japan had a couple more apparent chances when defender Atsuto Uchida was free in front of the Bahrain goalmouth, but failed to hit a shot in the 54th minute. Ten minutes later, Uchida's shot hit the bar.
"I don't say because I scored the goal, but I say the goal was very important," said Nakamura. "It was really tough to take three points from a win. We confirmed it again. It would have been easier if Uchida had scored a goal. He could have hit it to a different angle."
While Japan's next game will be on 6 June against Uzbekistan away, Bahrain will play Qatar, while Australia will play Uzbekistan both at home on 1 April. "Under the wing of [former Brazilian coach] Zico, we played friendly games against Argentina and Germany. I hope we can have games against such powerhouses," Nakamura said.