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Monday, June 6, 2011
Kawashima ready to lock horns with master Cech
By GUS FIELDING
YOKOHAMA — Eiji Kawashima is relishing the prospect of going up against Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech when Japan meets the Czech Republic in the final game of the Kirin Cup in Yokohama on Tuesday.
Kawashima was chiefly responsible for preserving Alberto Zaccheroni's unbeaten record as Japan coach with a string of fine stops in Wednesday's 0-0 draw with Peru in the opening game of the three-team tournament in Niigata.
Cech was also on form against Peru in Nagano Prefecture on Saturday, keeping a clean sheet as that game also finished goalless, setting up a winner-take-all climax against the Blue Samurai at Nissan Stadium.
Belgium-based Kawashima modestly played down his performance against the South Americans, but admitted the chance to play against one of the world's best goalkeepers in Cech has fired him up to deliver another top-drawer performance.
"As a goalkeeper it is a real pleasure to be playing against great goalkeepers and I am really looking forward to playing against him. It lifts my motivation," Kawashima said after training Sunday.
"I was just doing my job against Peru. That is what I am there for," said the 28-year-old, who admitted his teammates had struggled to adjust to an unfamiliar 3-4-3 shape that Zaccheroni looks set to stick with against the Czechs.
"The system is not easy so we have to try to make it better game by game."
Kawashima has been linked with a move to English Premier League club West Bromwich Albion from Lierse, whom he joined after a series of eye-catching performances at the World Cup in South Africa last summer.
The former Nagoya Grampus and Kawasaki Frontale keeper is also reportedly being targeted by VVV Venlo, which already has two Japanese players in Maya Yoshida and Bobby Cullen on its books, but Kawashima said nothing was decided yet for next season.
"Talks are still going on (with West Brom) and we are waiting for people to start moving. I am talking with my agent but I am not in a rush. I will wait until the middle of June or something," Kawashima said. "I am talking with a few clubs but I have to look at the conditions, whether I can play or not and what the club are thinking. Then I will take my direction for next season."
Cech has advised Kawashima to study up hard on the unique style of soccer he says is played in England if he ends up joining the Baggies or another Premier League team.
"I think it takes the understanding of the game over here (in England) because it is completely different to other countries," Cech said.
"It is more physical and I think that a goalkeeper needs to learn a lot about the game. Observation of the games and to understand the mentality and language, which helps; This is the main advice because you need to learn fast that this game is different.
"By watching the games and learning about the way the opponents play, this is the best way to get ready for the games even though you have never played against the teams before.
"When I came to England I was watching closely all of our opponents all week. I needed to know what kind of style they play to help me to get ready for the games. I had a very good season in my first season and followed that since but I think the key was the preparation for each game," said Chelsea's player of the year.
Cech, by his own admission, knows little about the current Japanese team, but said he is expecting a tough test on Tuesday.
"I haven't had much chance of watching how everybody is doing at the moment," Cech said.
"In my experience when I was in the youth team in the Under-20 World Cup (in 2001 in Argentina) we played Japan and lost 3-0 and we played the (senior) national team in our preparation in 2004 for the European Championship and lost 1-0 at home and they had lots of chances.
"Japan are a very good team and I think it will be a great test for us."