GEORGE - With his close cropped blonde hair Junichi Inamoto joked on Friday that he had been repeatedly mistaken for Japan heartthrob Keisuke Honda.
But the much-travelled midfielder would love to give people a reason to find out he is not the flashy Honda by scoring when they meet Paraguay in the World Cup last 16 on Tuesday.
Honda's thundering left foot put the boot into Denmark on Thursday when he scored one goal and set up another in a 3-1 win while Inamoto made do with a late appearance from the bench.
"Hopefully, I can score when I get a chance to play so people will know I'm not Honda," said Inamoto, who came on in the 90th minute against Denmark. "It was very early in the morning in Japan but I got lots of messages from friends.
"The last time we reached the round of 16 we finished there so this is a great opportunity for us to rewrite the story ourselves," he added recalling their 1-0 defeat by Turkey in 2002 when they co-hosted the finals with South Korea.
The prolific scorer Shinji Okazaki, who netted 15 goals for Japan in 2009, has also found himself overlooked with Honda now firmly installed as the first-choice striker.
But Okazaki grabbed some of the limelight against the Danes, coming on late in the second half to get Japan's third goal and his first at a World Cup.
"Now I'm hungry for more," Okazaki told reporters looking ahead to the Paraguay match. "We didn't have a South American team in our group but I expect the tackling will be much fiercer.
"The most important thing is we don't lose those battles because that is how we got this far. We have nothing to lose now."
Japan returned to sunny George and a heroes' welcome on Friday having the entire Western Cape to themselves after Denmark and France, also training nearby, headed home early.
However, the Blue Samurai will also be saying goodbye soon as they relocate their training base to Pretoria on Sunday.
The team that started the win over Denmark got the day off on Friday, including Honda and Yasuhito Endo who both struck brilliant goals from free-kicks.
"We'll just stick to the way we've been playing so far," said Inamoto. "We've scored goals with set pieces and (that) is an important way to find the target but we've also created other chances so should just keep playing the way we have."comments