TOKYO (AP) — Yoichiro Kakitani's goal drought in the J-League has put his position in Japan's World Cup squad in jeopardy.
Once considered a lock for Brazil, the 24-year-old attacking midfielder has yet to score for Cerezo Osaka in 10 J-League matches this season. Meanwhile his attacking partner, Uruguay veteran Diego Forlan, has scored five goals.
Kakitani does have four goals in six Asian Champions League matches but his lack of scoring domestically has raised concerns. He'll get a chance to break the drought when Cerezo faces Nagoya Grampus on Saturday.
Kakitani scored 21 goals in 34 games last season and added four goals for the national team in 2013 for coach Alberto Zaccheroni.
Forlan, who was awarded the Golden Ball as the best player of the 2010 World Cup and was joint top-scorer with five goals, said it's just a matter of time for Kakitani.
"There's no need to worry," Forlan told Nikkansports. "He has scored in the Asian Champions League and is getting his chances and is helping the team."
Kakitani has drawn comparisons with Shinji Kagawa, who also played for Cerezo before going to Europe. He signed his first professional contract with Cerezo at the age of 16; a club record for the youngest player signed to a professional contract. He played his first J-League game in November, 2006.
Osaka finished fourth in the 18-team J-League last season. The signing of Forlan raised expectations for Cerezo to win its first league title but the team has struggled and is 11th in the standings on 13 points from three wins, four draws and three losses.
Japan, drawn in a Group C with Ivory Coast, Greece and Colombia, will name its World Cup squad on May 12.