Nagatomo dedicates cup win to disaster victims

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 mission."

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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