Shinji Okazaki, is a quintessential poacher. Fifteen goals for Japan in 2009 alone certainly pays testament to this. But although he is a master inside the six-yard box, he is also adept at laying on chances for team-mates.
Okazaki was born in Hyogo Prefecture and grew up there until he signed a professional contract with Shimizu S-Pulse. His hero was Masashi Nakayama, the former Japan striker who scored their first FIFA World Cup goal against Jamaica at France 1998.
In his first two seasons at Shimizu, Okazaki did not play regularly. He established himself thereafter, however, and has become one of the most lethal marksmen in the J.League.
A tireless worker, Okazaki is renowned for his aerial ability despite being relatively small for a forward. “Heading is my strong point,” he said. “My head comes first, my feet second.”
Okazaki was alternated between starter and substitute during Japan’s South Africa 2010 qualification campaign, and scored the goal that sealed a victory over Uzbekistan and a place at the 19th edition of the FIFA World Cup. “It was one of my best moments,” he recalled. “It was very important and the turning point in my international career.”
Okazaki made his senior national team debut on October 9, 2008, in a friendly match against the UAE. He scored his first hat-trick against Hong Kong on 8 October 2009 and scored another hat-trick against Togo just 6 days later on 14 October 2009. He was named The World’s Top Goal Scorer 2009 by the IFFHS for his 15 goals with the national team. On 24 June 2010, Okazaki scored the final goal against Denmark in a 3-1 win as Japan qualified for the second round of the World Cup.