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World Cup: Japan's Kagawa bathes with mates to wash away blues

Japan's Shinji Kagawa was so dejected after the Asian champions lost their World Cup opener that his team-mates invited him to jump in the tub together to wash away the blues.

TOKYO: Japan's Shinji Kagawa was so dejected after the Asian champions lost their World Cup opener that his team-mates invited him to jump in the tub together to wash away the blues.

Striker Yoshito Okubo offered some consoling words for the Manchester United player during a soak, while defender Yuto Nagatomo also hopped in, Japanese media reported on Thursday.

Kagawa had little impact as Japan were beaten 2-1 by Ivory Coast in their Group C game in Brazil, and Okubo gave him the naked truth about his performance.

"I spoke with Shinji," Okubo told the Nikkan Sports daily. "He was really depressed but he's looking forward now. If he doesn't do the business, Japan have no chance."

The Blue Samurai face Greece in a must-win match on Thursday.

In an article entitled "Okubo gives Kagawa the love whip", the soapy heart-to-heart reportedly did the trick to shake Kagawa from his funk.

"You were absolutely useless," Okubo was quoted as saying to the mercurial midfielder as they soaked at their training base in Itu, in the northeast of Sao Paulo.

"You really were. But don't get down about it. You can't turn back the clock so put a smile on your face. Get it out of your system."

Nude communal bathing is a long-established tradition in Japan, which has an abundance of hot springs, but the national team have put their own spin on it, sometimes holding player meetings in the tub.

Former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi stumbled in on the team's celebrations after they beat Russia 1-0 at the 2002 finals, but that did not prevent him giving a naked Junichi Inamoto, the goalscorer, a congratulatory hug.

Japanese fans took to nudity too at the 2002 World Cup, revellers stripping off to jump into rivers to celebrate the team's run to the last 16 as co-hosts with South Korea.

Japan, who reached the knockout stages for the second time four years ago, take on Colombia in their final first-round game in Brazil.

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