Japan striker Shinji
Okazaki promised to lift the gloom following a string of poor
displays by his side in Tuesday's home World Cup qualifier
The pint-sized VfB Stuttgart player said he had recovered
from a knee problem and would be back amongst the goals as the
Blue Samurai look to take a firm grip on Group C.
"I score goals for a living," Okazaki, who has scored seven
goals in five matches under coach Alberto Zaccheroni, told
Monday's Japanese media.
"I'm starving for goals but it's all about the team. I'm
just a forward. Scoring goals is my job."
Japan disappointed in last Friday's 1-0 friendly win over
Vietnam, but Zaccheroni dismissed talk of a crisis in front of
"Yes we have only scored three goals in our last three
matches," the Italian told a news conference on the eve of the
clash with Tajikistan in Osaka.
"But we're ready. We made a lot of chances against North
Korea and we had our chances against Uzbekistan too. It's not as
if we have not been scoring in my 15 games as coach."
Unbeaten since Zaccheroni took charge last October, Japan
have made life difficult for themselves in their opening two
games in the third round of Asian 2014 qualifiers.
A stoppage-time win over North Korea at home was followed
last month by a desperately poor performance in a 1-1 draw with
Uzbekistan in Tashkent.
Japan's Inter Milan defender Yuto Nagatomo warned that
Tajikistan could prove dangerous opponents.
"They are hanging on for dear life in the group so we have
to be wary," he said. "We need an early goal so they come at us
and we get more space to play."
In his eagerness not to trigger a backlash from the
Japanese, Tajikistan coach Alimzhon Rafikov almost wrote off his
team's chances of producing an upset.
"We are not kidding ourselves about how difficult it will
be," he said. "We might only have a 1,000-1 chance of winning
but we want to give a good account of ourselves."
Japan and Uzbekistan both have four points in Group C with
North Korea on three. Tajikistan have lost both their matches.
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