Ogasawara offers to pay for own World Cup flight

TOKYO - Japanese midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara has offered to pay his own way to South Africa in order to compete at a third World Cup finals.

The 31-year-old scored one goal and set up another in Kashima's 3-1 J-League victory at Yokohama on Saturday to revive his claim for a place in Japan's squad.

"I realise it's tough for me," Ogasawara told Sunday's Japanese media. "But it's not as if my chances are zero."

The J-League player of the year has been overlooked by Japan coach Okada since being recalled for the first time in over three years in February amid reports of a bust-up between the two.

Ogasawara, at the centre of a national debate after he was picked ahead of Shunsuke Nakamura for the 2002 World Cup finals by former coach Philippe Troussier, refused to give up hope.

"I'm not pinning everything on making the first eleven," insisted Ogasawa. "But if I can get into the squad in a back-up role I would be happy to. I'd pay my own money to get there."

Ogasawara has played a key role in Kashima's hat-trick of J-League titles but could miss out on the World Cup after reports he clashed with Okada earlier this year.

Upset at being substituted in Japan's 0-0 home draw with Venezuela, the combative midfielder criticised the national set-up and was quickly warned by Okada to keep quiet.

Japan, who have never won a World Cup game on foreign soil, face the Netherlands, Cameroon and Denmark in Group E in South Africa.

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