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Match 54
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 By John Duerden

Kagawa vows to win back Japan place for 2018 World Cup

As Keisuke Honda's dream move at AC Milan came to an end, questions arise whether or not Pachuca is a good fit.
Japan qualified for their sixth straight World Cup following their 2-0 win over Australia.

Shinji Kagawa has admitted that he is in the dark over why he overlooked for Japan's upcoming internationals against Brazil and Belgium, but the Borussia Dortmund midfielder has vowed to secure his place in the 2018 World Cup squad.

Coach Vahid Halilhodzic omitted Kagawa, along with Leicester City's Shinji Okazaki and ex-AC Milan attacker Keisuke Honda, now with Pachuca in Mexico.

Halilhodzic was appointed in 2015, and clinched a place for Russia 2018 in August. He told Tokyo media when announcing the squad on Oct. 31 that his decision was down to competition, and that players who perform better than others will be called.

Kagawa, whose recent national team form has been inconsistent while his Dortmund form this year has been much improved, admitted that there had been no contact with Halilhodzic.

"To be honest, I am wondering about the timing of being left out of the squad," Kagawa told Nikkan Sports.

Thank you Mata for introducing Common Goal this time. As a Japanese, as an Asian, I can do such activities through sports and football. Those who got to know on sports are in the world. And I feel that it is wonderful to be able to do activities through my friends. Football teaches me a lot of things and even now football shows me hope and ways of thinking for many things. As a football player, playing on the pitch is important, but I think there is something I can do at other times. I think that I'm really happy to participate in Common Goal team this time, I'll move forward from what I can do little by little. 今回Common Goalを紹介していただいたマタには感謝しています。 日本人として、アジア人としてもスポーツやサッカーを通じてこの様な活動ができる事。 世界中にスポーツで知り合った仲間がいる事。 そしてその仲間を通じて活動ができる事は素晴らしいと感じています。 サッカーは僕自身にたくさんの事を教えてくれますし、今も数多くの事を希望や考え方を示してくれています。 サッカー選手である以上、ピッチの上でプレーする事も大事ですが、その他の時間においてもやれる事はあると思います。 少しずつ今自分にできる事から進めていこうと思う中で今回このチームに参加する事ができ、本当に良かったと感じます。 #commongoal #sk23 #dortmund #香川真司 #juanmata

A post shared by Shinji Kagawa 香川真司 (@sk23.10) on

"I think that for the past six months or so, my condition has not been bad at all... but it is not for me to talk about the criteria used for the selection of players."

The games, against Brazil in the French city of Lille of Nov. 10 and against Belgium in Bruges four days later, mark Japan's first action in Europe for four years, and would have been an easy trip for the German-based star.

"I have never thought of these games against strong opposition as simple friendly games," the former Manchester United player, who returned to Dortmund for a second spell in 2014, added. "But they are games held with the World Cup in mind."

"Now I have to concentrate on getting good results with Dortmund. I was always proud to play for the national team, and that is something that I do not want to lose."

Kagawa has earned 89 caps since 2008, scoring 29 goals, and winning the 2011 AFC Asian Cup with a 1-0 victory over Australia in the final.

Asian expert John Duerden is the author of Lions and Tigers: Story of Football in Singapore and Malaysia.Twitter: @JohnnyDuerden.

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