May 20 (Reuters) - Japan defender Yuto Nagatomo cannot be accused of lacking ambition and says he will be going to Brazil next month with only one goal - winning the World Cup.
Nagatomo is expected to be a key player for the Blue Samurai at their fifth successive World Cup finals, where they have been grouped with Greece, Ivory Coast and Colombia in the opening round.
“As a player who will compete with the burden of wearing the (national flag), I cannot conceive of going into the tournament thinking about losing,” Nagatomo told Kyodo news agency at Tokyo Airport. “I aspire to win the championship.”
No Asian team has won soccer’s greatest international prize and Japan’s best results were a place in the last 16 when they co-hosted the tournament in 2002 and again in South Africa in 2010.
Their 2-2 draw with Netherlands followed by a 3-2 win over Belgium last November have convinced some that if any Asian team is going to make a big impression in Brazil, it will be Alberto Zaccheroni’s Japan.
As the starting left back, Nagatomo will be looking to help shore up a defence that has proved porous over the last couple of years.
But just as important a role for the 27-year-old in the Italian coach’s attacking style, however, will be to get down the flanks and into the attack and perhaps even add to the three goals he has scored in his 67 internationals.
Nagatomo scored five goals for Inter Milan last season in a more advanced position than he plays for his country and will be out to leave a lasting impression in Brazil.
“I want to deliver a performance that will live on in people’s memories and be talked about again and again,” he added. (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Sudipto Ganguly)