Ogasawara vows to add steel to Japan

TOKYO - Japan's forgotten man Mitsuo Ogasawara has promised to bring some much needed steel to the national side after a long-overdue recall.

Last season's J-League player of the year was called up by Japan coach Takeshi Okada for the February 2 friendly with Venezuela after an absence of more than three years.

"I think the current Japan team doesn't have a lot of experience of tough away games," the hard-tackling Ogasawara told Thursday's Japanese media.

"Hopefully I have the ability to help win those games and help the team approach them correctly.

"But just getting the call does not necessarily mean anything," added the Kashima Antlers midfielder. "I want to keep my place and play in one more World Cup."

Ogasawara was at the centre of a national outcry when former Japan coach Philippe Troussier selected the more combative player over playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura in his 2002 World Cup squad.

The Frenchman's decision was partially justified as co-hosts Japan reached the last 16 and Okada has finally answered calls to include the 30-year-old Ogasawara.

"It's an honour to get the call," said Ogasawara, who last played for Japan at the 2006 World Cup in Germany under Brazilian coach Zico. "It's what I have always wanted."

Ogasawara admitted he would have to get used to Okada, who has publicly targeted a semi-final finish for a Japan side at the World Cup in South Africa this year.

"I don't know his way of doing things but football is football," said the former Messina midfielder. "It's all about winning games."

Japan have never won a World Cup finals game on foreign soil and face a difficult assignment just to progress from their group after being drawn with the Netherlands, Cameroon and Denmark.

But Ogasawara was bullish about his country's chances of advancing from Group E.

"Every team has the possibility of reaching the last four," he said. "You have got to aim high. The teams in our group aren't teams we're incapable of beating."