ROSTOVE-ON-DON, Russia - Shinji Kagawa has Belgium in his sights for Monday's World Cup last 16 clash after the Red Devils' Twitter account confused him with Japanese wrestler Shinsuke Nakamura at the weekend.
Kagawa is set to lead Japan's attack when the Asian underdogs take on Roberto Martinez's star-studded Belgium in Rostov on Monday for a place in the World Cup quarter-finals. The 29-year-old ex-Manchester United midfielder was mixed up with Japanese WWE star Nakamura when the Belgium team's Twitter handler meant to tag the footballer on Saturday.
The blunder happened in a Tweet when Belgium's Adnan Januzaj was talking up his former Old Trafford team-mate as Japan's danger man. However, instead of using Kagawa's Twitter handle the official Belgium account instead tagged wrestling star Nakamura, 38, who even jokingly replied.
Belgian social media mistakes aside, Kagawa is key to Japan's hopes of making the quarter-finals at a World Cup finals for the first time. Along with fellow senior players Yuya Osako and captain Makoto Hasebe, Kagawa was one of six changes from the side which earned a 2-2 draw with Senegal for the 1-0 defeat to Poland in the final group game.
Japan squeezed into the knockout rounds at Senegal's expense because they had picked up fewer yellow cards. It will take a shock win in the last 16 to rival Russia's penalty shoot-out victory over Spain if Japan are to beat Belgium.
🗣️ | "Japan have never made it past the last eight, so we want to get there" 👊
🇯🇵 Can @jfa_samuraiblue reach the #WorldCup quarter-finals? We sat down with Takashi Inui #BELJPN pic.twitter.com/XUo6cIuu3q
"I hope we can surprise them," said Kagawa, who has scored 31 goals in 94 appearances for Japan. Skillful, fleet-footed and capable of splitting defences with a single pass, Kagawa has a reputation as a box-to-box midfielder.
He was a key cog in Borussia Dortmund winning back-to-back German league titles in 2011 and again in 2012, the year Man Utd lured him away after he scored 13 goals with 12 assists in 31 Bundesliga games.
Having cost Dortmund 350,000 euros ($409,622) from J-League side Cerezo Osaka in 2010, the German club sold him two years later to the Premier League giants for 16 million euros. Kagawa struggled in the 2012/13 season, stuck on the right wing to accomodate Wayne Rooney, who was by then a fading force at Old Trafford, leaving Japan's star on the fringes when United won the Premier League.
Things did not improve during David Moyes' short reign and Kagawa returned to Dortmund in 2014 hoping to rebuild his confidence. Injuries disrupted his return under Jurgen Klopp, whose successors Thomas Tuchel, then Peter Bosz had other ideas to fill the attacking midfield role at Dortmund.
Peter Stoeger, Dortmund's caretaker coach last season after Bosz was fired, put Kagawa in his starting side. He responded with three goals and as many assists in nine Bundesliga games before illness and an ankle injury struck in February.
Kagawa opened his Russia 2018 account with a penalty in the 2-1 win over Colombia and his midfield battle with Belgian ace Kevin de Bruyne promises to be a fascinating sideshow in Rostov.