Japan midfielder Gaku Shibasaki believes he can still get better ahead of his side’s final Group H game despite having made a positive start at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Playing alongside captain Makoto Hasebe in the heart of the Japan midfield, Shibasaki has impressed with his craft and composure as his side picked up four points from games against Colombia and Senegal to sit joint-top of their group on four points.
The Samurai Blue only need to avoid defeat against already-eliminated Poland on Thursday to secure their place in the Round of 16 for the first time since 2010.
And, while the understated but pivotal displays by Shibasaki will go a long way in helping them achieve that, the Getafe man does not appear keen to rest on his laurels.
“I am not satisfied with my performances at all,” he told FIFA.com. “I believe I can do more.
When people come across Japan, they only knew about Honda & Kagawa but Shibasaki was amazing again. He controlled the tempo of that midfield well. He threaded some top through-balls. He spread play from one side to other side with efficiency.Reminded me of a certain Andrea Pirlo.
— Futbol Writer (@Futbol_Writer) June 24, 2018
“I can help the team improve our ball possession rate. And in our attacking play, I can support and assist much more when I get the ball from my team-mates.
“Also, when we use the long ball, I must try to be there to pick up the second ball. I will also be more careful about the risks I take in controlling midfield.”
Japan showed plenty of resolve on Sunday as they came from behind twice to force a 2-2 draw against Senegal, who also have four points with one match left to go in the group stage.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man‼️
Following his crucial equaliser for 🇯🇵 @jfa_samuraiblue, Honda has made history by becoming the HIGHEST-SCORING Asian at the #WorldCup, as well as the FIRST JAPANESE to net in 3⃣ tournaments 😮😮😮 #JPN #SEN #JPNSENhttps://t.co/k2uNQgkyii
— FOX Sports Asia (@FOXSportsAsia) June 24, 2018
But it was the way in which the Japanese cleverly carved out chances that gives Shibasaki reason for optimism ahead of their meeting with the Poles.
“Our first was a really nice one and something that we were trying hard to do,” he added.
“We were able to use the space behind Senegal’s defence; it was a goal we had planned and imagined as a team.
I hope Gaku Shibasaki gets the plaudits his performance deserves. He was instrumental in the midfield, always looking to be positive. Some of his raking passes were a joy to behold.
— Sam Robson (@FRsoccerSam) June 24, 2018
“The second goal was also good. We were able to cause problems down both flanks and, again, use the spaces.
“The team has gained something good from these goals because, unlike in the first game [a 2-1 win over Colombia], both came from open play.
“Now we need to take that on to the Poland match and get the result we need to reach the knockout rounds.”