As leagues across Europe reach their final stages, Japanese players hoped to catch the attention of national team manager Alberto Zaccheroni before next month's qualifiersOn this season's final matchday for Germany's elite class‚ contrasts couldn't be any sharper for Japanese players as four started while the other four didn't even feature in respective squads. One of the starters was once again Gotoku Sakai who had a fine Saturday afternoon in Stuttgart's 3-2 home win over Wolfsburg.
While the youngster - impressing with his aggressive play in man-on-man situations - produced a solid defensive performance‚ he was instrumental in the Swabians' comeback win as it was his cross in the 77th minute which led to the equaliser and a low ball from the right only two minutes later which assisted Ibrahima Traore's winner.
Meanwhile‚ Shinji Kagawa started at home against Freiburg‚ not excelling but still contributing to an easy 4-0 win assisting Borussia Dortmund's last goal with a stunning lob over the visitors' defence line in the 39th minute.
The newly-crowned champions closed the season on a record-breaking 81 winning points‚ and a 28-game unbeaten streak. The Japanese attacker is said to announce his future only after the DFB-Pokal final on May 12.
|STAR OF THE WEEKEND
With a goal and an assist‚ Takagi has completed his ascent from bench-warmer to reliable starter with Utrecht in just one season and should improve his reputation even more in London
In his last game on loan at Augsburg‚ Hajime Hosogai impressed with an industrious display in the 1-0 home win against a lacklustre Hamburg. The match saw the 25-year-old in a more advanced role than usual‚ and the midfielder was unlucky to have a goal falsely ruled out for offside in the 51st minute.
In Holland‚ Yoshiaki Takagi once again played an instrumental role in Utrecht's victory‚ this time in a 3-1 win at Roda JC.
Four minutes into the second half‚ the 19-year-old made a bold run while surrounded by defenders before breaking into the penalty area and letting loose a shot that rolled its way into the right corner of the net.
The goal‚ Takagi's first since joining the club‚ makes him the third-youngest Japanese player to score in Europe following Ryo Miyaichi and Takayuki Morimoto.
Yuto Nagatomo (Inter): Made a full appearance in his team's 4-2 home win against AC Milan.
Takayuki Morimoto (Novara): Featured on bench for Novara's 3-0 home win over Cesena.
Atsuto Uchida (Schalke): Made a full appearance in the 3-2 win at Bremen. The right-back had a decent game in defence‚ but didn't pose much of a threat with his attacking runs.
Shinji Okazaki (Stuttgart): Was left off the lineup as his club defeated Wolfsburg 3-2 at home.
Makoto Hasebe (Wolfsburg): Left off roster in the 3-2 loss away to Stuttgart.
Yuki Otsu (Borussia Monchengladbach): Wasn't included in his team's 3-0 away win over Mainz.
Takashi Usami (Bayern Munich): Was left off the line-up in 4-1 win at Koln.
Takashi Inui (Bochum): Played a full 90 minutes in the 2-1 loss at Erzgebirge Aue.
Ryo Miyaichi (Bolton): Warmed the bench during the 2-2 home draw to West Bromwich.
Tadanari Lee (Southampton): Didn't feature in the roster for 4-0 home win against Coventry City. Lee's February 18 goal was was voted 'Best of the Season' by Southampton fans.
Maya Yoshida (VVV Venlo): Made a full appearance in his team's 4-2 home win against Twente.
Cullen Robert (VVV Venlo): Was an unused substitute in his team's 4-2 home win against Twente.
Michihiro Yasuda (Vitesse): Made a full appearance in the 3-1 home loss against Ajax.
Mike Havenaar (Vitesse): Came on in the 80th minute in his club's 3-1 home loss against Ajax.
Daisuke Matsui (Dijon): Wasn't included for Dijon's 2-0 home loss against Auxerre.
Eiji Kawashima (Lierse): Played a full 90 minutes in the 2-1 home loss against OH Leuven. The loss means the end of Lierse's season‚ and most likely the end of the Japanese goalkeeper's time at the club. Lierse's supporters chose the 29-year-old as this season's MVP for the second successive time.
Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow): Made a full appearance in his club's 3-0 away win over Lokomotiv Moscow. Honda picked up his third straight yellow card in Thursday night's match but still managed another full appearance.
Takayuki Seto (Astra Ploiesti): Made a full appearance for 3-1 loss at Petrolul Ploiesti.