Japan `mole` Yasuhito Endo sheepishly reaches 150 caps
Japan`s Yasuhito Endo reacted with mock horror after learning he had tied German superstar Lothar Matthaeus by winning his 150th cap in his country`s 1-0 Asian Cup victory over Iraq.
The 34-year-old midfielder, given his international debut by Brazilian Zico in 2002, is expected to surpass Matthaeus, who skippered West Germany to World Cup glory in 1990, when the Blue Samurai play Jordan in their final Group D game on Tuesday.
"Me going level with Matthaeus is a bit of an insult to Matthaeus," said Japan`s record caps holder, initially discarded by Japan coach Javier Aguirre following their flop at last year`s World Cup before forcing his way back into the Mexican`s reckoning.
"But winning so many caps is obviously something I can be proud of, and matching Matthaeus is another thing I can look back on and boast about when I`m no longer playing.
"I remember my first international appearance and my first goal for my country. But I don`t want to look back and single out any one game," added the J-League player of the year after becoming the 16th player in FIFA records to reach the 150-cap milestone.
"I mean, I don`t think I`m finished yet," said Endo, dubbed Japan`s "mole in the hole" by former Gamba Osaka manager Akira Nishino for his ability to pop up in space.
"I plan to prolong my international career as long as I can," added Endo, who scored in the 4-0 thrashing of Palestine in Japan`s opening game at the Asian Cup last Monday and turns 35 three days before the tournament final in Sydney on January 31.
"Endo is a wonderful human being," said Aguirre, who brought him back into the international fold after a poor run of form since taking over from Alberto Zaccheroni post-Brazil. "He is a big presence for this team."
Endo, who shuns the limelight in a Japan team dominated by spiky cult hero Keisuke Honda and the mercurial Shinji Kagawa, insisted he still had a role to play for the defending Asian Cup champions.
"I think I can still improve and believe there`s more to experience," said Endo, who helped Gamba to a domestic treble this year. "I want to enjoy my football and keep setting records."