Shunsuke Nakamura is hoping he can celebrate his 32nd birthday on Thursday by playing a key role on Japan's FIFA World Cup™ showdown with Denmark.

The left-footed deadball specialist, a key man in Japan's FIFA World Cup qualifying, has been on the bench in some warm-up matches and in the 1-0 defeat of Cameroon in their opening game due to poor form and fitness problems. Coach Takeshi Okada used the midfielder for the last 29 minutes in Japan's 1-0 loss to the Netherlands on Saturday, but he was unable to make his mark on the game.

However, Nakamura said he could prove his worth when the Blue Samurai and the Danes clash for Group E's second last 16 slot with the Netherlands already assured of going through. "Just one play could change the whole situation and I want to work hard for that one moment," Nakamura told reporters at Japan's training base here.

Just one play could change the whole situation and I want to work hard for that one moment.

Shunsuke Nakamura

"Whatever they say about me now, everybody has ups and downs. They should work harder when the sun is not shining on them," he said. "As the coach says, it will be an all-out battle against Denmark. The team should be united as one."

Okada said he brought on Nakamura against the Dutch because he wanted him to hold the ball up front and take the kicks at set pieces. Nakamura is remembed for two free kicks he scored against Manchester United in 2006 to help Celtic reach the UEFA Champions League knock-out stage for the first time.

He has struggled since returning to his old J-League home Yokohama Marinos in February after six disappointing months at Espanyol, which ended a spell of nearly eight years in Europe, where he helped Celtic become Scottish champions three times. His poor form has been compounded by a left ankle injury he suffered in a J-League match.