Japanese goal-machine Shinji Okazaki believes he has unlocked the secret to scoring success just in time for next month’s World Cup in Brazil.
The FSV Mainz 05 striker’s 15 Bundesliga goals set a new benchmark for Japanese players in Europe and Okazaki is keen to continue his rich form in Brazil and erase the disappointment of being benched before the last World Cup in South Africa four years ago.
“I’m no target man,” the 28-year-old told Kyodo news agency at Japan’s pre-World Cup training camp in Kagoshima Prefecture. “I don’t hold up the ball or play with my back to the goal. I score goals by getting behind the defense, by beating the [offside] trap.”
Okazaki, who has scored 38 goals in 73 appearances for the Asian champions, believed he just needed to stick to what he was good at.
“What I discovered is that if I play to my strengths, I can score goals. I don’t see the season I had as a sign of improvement. I see it as a season in which I figured out how to make use of what I had all along, and that’s what led to the 15 goals,” he said.
A favorite with coach Alberto Zaccheroni, the former VfB Stuttgart player is almost certain to start Japan’s Group C opener against Ivory Coast on June 14 in Recife.
However, the 28-year-old was not taking anything for granted as Japan bid for a first quarter-final appearance.
“There’s obviously what we built over the last four years, but the next month is an entirely different story,” he said. “It’s what we get done with the 23 who are here now that counts and the way I see it, none of us should be promised a place in the team.”
Japan will also face Colombia and Greece in Group C.