Kagawa's struggles from United continue

Kagawa's struggles from United continue

Two seasons on the fringes of the Manchester United set-up have left Japanese poster boy Shinji Kagawa a pale imitation of his former self, battling nerves and psychological demons if his World Cup is not to be cut short.

The 25-year-old had a World Cup debut to forget against Ivory Coast, struggling to make an impact against impressive African full back Serge Aurier, who took advantage of Kagawa's defensive frailties to bomb forward and set up both goals in a 2-1 comeback win on Saturday.

Unable to hold up the ball or link with Japan's central playmaker Keisuke Honda, Kagawa was replaced by Yoichiro Kakitani in the final minutes of the Group C match.

"If this is the result, this says a lot about me," he told reporters.

The once unthinkable prospect of Kagawa missing out on the starting lineup for the next match against Greece on Thursday is now a possibility with the player revealing his mental anguish before the Ivory Coast clash.

"I lost a battle with myself," Kagawa told Kyodo News this week.

"There was pressure and nerves and at the start I made mistakes and I'm taking a good look at myself. I couldn't get into a good rhythm and was beaten psychologically.

Kagawa was not the only one who struggled in a limp display by the Asian champions after they had taken the lead through a sumptuous strike by Honda in the 16th minute.

Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni had called for his talented team to believe in themselves prior to the match, but their confidence shattered and the panic set in as they struggled to keep their powerful attacking opponents at bay.