Shinji Okazaki is hungry for more glory in the FIFA World Cup™ last-16 clash with Paraguay on Tuesday after helping to end a worrying goal drought for Japan's strikers.
"I want to score more goals," he told reporters Friday, the day after Japan beat Denmark 3-1 to reach the knockout stages for the first time on foreign soil. Japan will face Paraguay in Pretoria on Tuesday for a place in the quarter-finals.
"I have ideas oozing out of my head about how I should play in the tournament," the J-League Shimizu S-Pulse forward added. "As a forward, I must score goals. There have been players who have lived with regrets after failing to score in World Cups. In that sense, I simply feel happy."
Playing as a second-half substitute for the third straight game, Okazaki scored Japan's third goal against Denmark after they went ahead with superb free-kicks by CSKA Moscow midfielder Keisuke Honda and Gamba Osaka veteran Yasuhito Endo. Okazaki became the first striker to hit the target for Japan in seven internationals since he struck in the 2-0 win over Bahrain in an AFC Asian Cup qualifier in March, his first goal this year.
It was a far cry from Okazaki's scoring spree last year when he chalked up a whopping 15 international goals - mostly against weak sides and including hat-tricks against Hong Kong and an under-strength Togo. "I hope I will get better and better and fight on as I grow," Okazaki said. "I will score my second goal and then the third. I'll take one goal at a time."
Japan as a team have also lacked firepower, scoring only one goal - through centre-back Marcus Tulio Tanaka - in their four-match losing streak in FIFA World Cup warm-ups against Serbia, South Korea, England and Côte d'Ivoire. Honda, playing as a lone frontman, hit the winner in the 1-0 win over Cameroon in their World Cup opener. Japan went down 1-0 to the Netherlands in the second group game.
"South Americans are tougher in one-on-one battles for the ball," Okazaki said. "We must not be outdone there. If we play with confidence, I think we can overcome them. It will be a really important match where I can show my stuff."