Latics ace Ryo loves friendlies

Wigan stars Arouna Kone and Ryo Miyaichi (right)
Wigan stars Arouna Kone and Ryo Miyaichi (right)

TRY telling Ryo Miyaichi that international friendlies don’t matter.

They’re usually slammed by club managers and supporters up and down the land as ‘meaningless’ matches.

But as Japan prepare for back-to-back clashes against France and Brazil as part of their preparations for upcoming World Cup qualifiers, it’s hard to imagine Miyaichi and Co not getting anything out of the experience.

“I’m really looking forward to playing against France and Brazil – two great, great teams in international football,” Miyaichi told the Evening Post.

“The matches are only friendlies, but they are massive games for us in our preparations for the World Cup.

“Whenever you play against a team like France or Brazil, it is a massive honour and I can’t wait for the games.

“It will be great experience for me to be playing against some top, top players.

“I always love playing for my country and this is another opportunity for me to show the coach what I can do.”

Japan are one of the most improved countries in world football, and only bowed out of the last World Cup on penalties to Paraguay.

They are well on the way to qualifying for the 2014 finals in Brazil, having beaten Ali Al Habsi’s Oman 3-0 in their opening group game, and are sitting pretty at the top of the group.

The profile of Japanese football couldn’t be higher at the moment, with Miyaichi one of several players plying their trade in the Premier League.

One of his close pals, Shinji Kagawa, was a big-money signing for Manchester United in the close season, and their stars are scattered around the top leagues in Europe.

But, as Miyaichi acknowledges, they still have a long way to go before they are regarded as being up there with the elite powers of world football.

“We won’t be the favourites for these next two games, because France and Brazil are two of the top teams in the world,” Miyaichi added.

“But it is a good opportunity for us to show what we can do and how much Japanese football has come on in the last few years.

“It will also be ideal preparation for the big World Cup qualifiers we have coming up.”

Miyaichi is on a season-long loan at Wigan from Premier League rivals Arsenal, having enjoyed a similar spell last season up the road at Bolton Wanderers.

Having just settled in to life at Wigan, he is now jetting around the globe – but it’s not something he is about to moan about.

“It is a nice change to go away with my country as opposed to playing at club level,” Miyaichi added. “Obviously everyone speaks the same language as me which helps, and it’s always nice to see my old friends again.

“When we play France, I will also be playing against Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud, who I know from Arsenal. It will be extra special to play against my friends.”