Japan looking to settle old score against Danes

GEORGE, South Africa, June 24, 2010 (AFP) - Japan forward Yoshito Okubo is taking it upon himself to help settle a historical score when his country face Denmark with World Cup survival at stake in the World Cup on Thursday.

The two countries met each other only once before, in 1971 when the touring Asians bowed 3-2 to the Danes in a friendly in Copenhagen.

At that time, Okubo's mentor, Kunishige Kamamoto, bagged both goals for Japan who were still relishing their bronze medal at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics in which he was the top scorer with seven goals.

Now 39 years on, Okubo believes it is time to repay the 66-year-old Kamamoto, often acclaimed as the greatest Japanese striker of all time, who taught him the ropes at his former J-League club Cerezo Osaka.

Japan, level on three points with the Danes, have a better goal difference and need only a draw to reach the last 16 of the World Cup for the first time on foreign soil.

"He (Kamamoto) has taught me many things. I want to use them to produce results," Okubo told Japanese media ahead of the Denmark game in Rustenburg.

Japan's national football team players attend a training session at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium of Rustenburg on June 23, 2010. AFP

Okubo, now with J-League club Vissel Kobe, who turned 28 after coming to South Africa, particularly remembered Kamamato's words: "A forward should be an egoist."

In the 1-0 defeat to the Netherlands, he followed the advice.

Okubo bungled a few shots in the second half when he could have passed the ball to better-placed teammates, drawing criticism from former Japan coach Ivica Osim.

"You must shoot whenever you catch the net in your sight," Okubo insisted. "You can't score a goal without attempting it."

He scored three goals in 13 matches for Real Mallorca when he played there in 2004-2005 and had a short spell at German club Wolfsburg without making any impact, before returning to Kobe last year.

Okubo has a burning desire to end a goalless drought for Japanese strikers. "There may be only a few chances and I will seize them to go for goal," he said.

Japan scored only once in their four-match losing streak in pre-World Cup friendlies -- through centre back Marcus Tulio Tanaka.

CSKA Moscow midfielder Keisuke Honda, acting as a lone frontman with Okubo and Grenoble midfielder Daisuke Matsui behind him, scored the winner in the 1-0 upset of African powerhouse Cameroon in their World Cup opener.

Japan coach Takeshi Okada kept the formation intact against the Dutch and is expected to use it again against Denmark.

Shinji Okazawaki was the last forward to score for Japan when he and Honda struck in the 2-0 win over Bahrain in an Asian Cup qualifier last March.

Okubo's last international goal came in late 2008 in the 3-1 win over Syria at home, his fifth since 2003. But his gutsy style has earned him a spot on Okada's first team in the last five matches.

Meanwhile, Honda was keeping his calm before the big battle. "I don't feel any negative pressure. I feel calm now."

Asked if he could score again, he replied: "A goal is scored when it is scored. I want to play without getting too eager.

"All we have to do is go out there and win no matter what."

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