TOKYO - Inter Milan defender Yuto Nagatomo
declared it 'mission accomplished' after winning the Italian Cup
for the victims of the deadly earthquake and tsunami which
devastated northeast Japan in March.
The Japan full-back told Monday's Japanese media the
destruction caused by the March 11 disaster had given him extra
incentive before Inter's 3-1 win over Palermo on Sunday.
"Japan is suffering with some difficult problems," Nagatomo
told the Nikkan Sports newspaper. "It's up to us to put in the
effort to deliver some good news for the victims. It's our
Nagatomo, called up for Japan's home friendlies against Peru
and the Czech Republic on June 1 and 7, said he had grown as a
player after moving to Inter in February.
"I feel I've gained 10 years of experience in one year,"
said the 24-year-old, who joined Inter on loan from Serie A
rivals Cesena after helping Japan win the Asian Cup.
"I've had to learn from mistakes and keeping scaling walls,
like before the (2010) World Cup."
Nagatomo, one of Japan's most popular European-based players
since trailblazers Hidetoshi Nakata and Shunsuke Nakamura, said
his experience in Italy would benefit the national side.
"There is such huge pressure playing for a big club like
Inter and we have come through a lot," he said, referring to a
turbulent season where Rafael Benitez was sacked after six
months because of the side's slumping form following the exit of
treble-winner Jose Mourinho.
"Whatever happens, sticking together and not crumbling under
the pressure is something I can help bring to the Japan team."
Japan are preparing for their first full internationals
since the quake and tsunami which killed around 25,000 people
and the resulting nuclear crisis still raging north of Tokyo.
Nagatomo is expected to be rested against Peru but should
play against the Czechs on June 7 in Yokohama.
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