Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Rivaldo… how does Shinji Okazaki’s goal compare to our best ever bicycle kicks?
・ Shinji Okazaki scored a sensational goal in Leicester’s win over Newcastle
・ Okazaki’s goal sparked comparisons to some of the greatest of its kind
・ But does it feature in our list of the best ever?
by Jonny Singer
Leicester continued their stunning march towards the unlikeliest of Premier League titles on Monday night, with Shinji Okazaki’s bicycle kick earning them all three points against Newcastle.
The fabulous finish was the kind of goal you expect to see at the highest level of the game, and seemed to serve as proof of Leicester’s place at the top of English football.
But does Okazaki’s goal make our list of the greatest bicycle kicks ever?
Shinji Okazaki poised to eclipse Kagawa’s exploits in Premier League
by Jason Dasey
It’s taken him less than a full season, but already Shinji Okazaki has matched the goal tally in England of Japan teammate Shinji Kagawa, whose unhappy Manchester United stint spanned 26 months.
Okazaki’s eye-catching, overhead strike that gave Leicester City a 1-0 victory over Newcastle United on Monday night, and a five point lead at the top of the Premier League, was his sixth goal in 31 matches in all competitions.
Playing for three different managers, Kagawa managed only six goals in 57 games before Louis Van Gaal deemed him surplus to requirements and sent the midfielder back to Borussia Dortmund within the first month of the 2014-15 season.
“I wanted to realise my Premier League dream but now I’m happy to be back in Dortmund in this great team,” Kagawa told the club’s official website on his return to Germany. “Dortmund is like family … I can belong again.”
While Kagawa never really fitted in at Old Trafford as injuries and being played out of position took their toll, Okazaki has emerged as an integral part of the Claudio Ranieri revolution at King Power Stadium. While strike partner Jamie Vardy has overshadowed him with 19 league goals, Okazaki has chipped in with important contributions, none more so than his 25th minute masterpiece that settled a tense home game against Newcastle, who were looking to impress new manager Rafa Benitez.
After Riyad Mahrez’s free-kick wasn’t properly cleared, Vardy headed across the box for Okazaki to connect spectacularly from six yards.
Okazaki is now on course to match Kagawa in winning a Premier League title — the latter did it under Sir Alex Ferguson in his debut 2012-13 season — but with a team who were widely tipped for relegation at the start of the campaign.
His move to England after two successful seasons with Mainz — and a total of five in the Bundesliga — seemed like a calculated risk at best. After Kagawa’s hasty retreat to Borussia Dortmund, central defender Maya Yoshida remained the only Japanese in the Premier League, and he was with an apparently much stronger Southampton side, with aspirations of European football.
But Okazaki, just like Leicester, made a good start to the season and hasn’t looked back. His first goal came in only his second game as the Foxes won away to West Ham United on Aug. 15 and he scored the winner at Goodison Park on Dec. 19 in a 3-2 victory over Everton that put his team top of the table going into the Christmas-New Year period.
The fact that many of his best performances and most important goals have come away from home indicates his resilience. He has also been effective coming off the bench — nine times in 35 games in all competitions — finding the net as a substitute in crucial games versus Tottenham in the FA Cup in January and against Newcastle in the reverse league fixture at St. James’ Park last October.
With 47 goals in 96 appearances, Okazaki is Japan’s third most prolific scorer in history — Kagawa has 23 in 73 — and always seems to find a way past the keeper. It’s a quality much needed by a national team who have traditionally struggled to convert midfield dominance and possession into results against world class opposition.
He is part of a select group who scored in both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. He also gave the Samurai Blue a rare victory over South American opposition in a 1-0 triumph against Argentina in a 2010 friendly.
He’s bagged three goals in Japan’s 2018 AFC World Cup qualifying campaign so far and is likely to add to his tally with home games against Afghanistan and Syria to conclude their second round matches later this month.
And with Thailand-owned Leicester desperate for an Asian success story, Okazaki presents the dream solution. He’s likeable, hardworking, successful and a true team player who fits in perfectly to the United Nations of Leicester. The side that featured against Newcastle on Monday night had nine different nationalities.
So why has Okazaki’s experience been more celebrated and enjoyable than Kagawa’s painful spell at Old Trafford?
The older Shinji — he turns 30 next month while Kagawa is 27 on March 17 — has had the advantage of flying under the radar in England’s East Midlands while his predecessor was in the goldfish bowl of Manchester where his every move, and even facial expressions, were scrutinised.
And having the masterful Ranieri dampening expectations, including talking about the target of avoiding relegation when Leicester were sitting top of the table earlier in the season, has taken the pressure off everyone, including Okazaki.
No doubt the two Shinjis will have plenty to catch up on when they get together next week for national camp ahead of the two Group E qualifiers in Saitama.
True, Shinji Kagawa will always be the first Japan international to win a Premier League winners’ medal. But, if Leicester can hold on, Shinji Okazaki would have enjoyed his trophy-winning English experience a whole lot more.
“I don’t know how I’ve fitted in with all of them. You’d have to ask them, but I like a joke. When they make jokes, even if I don’t understand it, I just smile.”
Leicester City NEWS: Shinji Okazaki is all smiles after match winner against Newcastle United
By Rob Tanner
It is hard to wipe the smile off Shinji Okazaki’s face, in fact, it is impossible.
The Japan international’s grin was even broader after his stunning overhead kick clinched another win for Leicester City and restored their five-point gap over Tottenham Hotspur at the top of the Premier League.
City were not at their best but a moment of magic from Okazaki, who scored his first goal at the King Power Stadium, kept City on course for the most unlikely Premier League title.
It was a purely instinctive finish from the 29-year-old.
“I have scored one like that before in the Bundesliga against Hannover but it was a completely different situation,” he said afterwards.
“This was a far more important game and because it was the goal that won it, makes it a lot different.
“I don’t practice overhead kicks. I actually like direct shooting. One touch – then shoot.
“The goal was just instinctive. That is my character.
“We’ve got a five point gap again now so it was a very important match to win, but the manager was so angry at half-time.”
While Okazaki was all-smiles, he revealed manager Claudio Ranieri showed his sterner side at half time as City struggled to overcome relegation-threatened Newcastle United.
“Yes, he is smiling most of the time but when we came in at half-time he was mad,” said Okazaki.
“He is always joking but maybe to see him angry like that is good for us.”
With eight games to go, the finishing line is in sight and there aren’t any signs the pressure is starting to really affect City, and Okazaki says that is down to the relaxed atmosphere that exists within the City camp.
“I think one of the things about this team is that it is so simple so that helps us to not get pressure,” he said.
“Our spirit is very good for each game – nice and simple. No pressure.
“It’s not easy to switch off but maybe the character of the players is what is good.
“Vardy , Mahrez, they are so relaxed. They are laughing and joking all the time. There’s no pressure and that’s good.
Leicester City goal celebrations still shaking the streets
The Leicester City earthquake is continuing to shake not just the Premier League but also streets across the city.
With just eight games to go in the Foxes’ remarkable season, City remain five points clear at the top of the table.
As reported in the Mercury, seismologists from the University of Leicester and British Geological Survey have been gauging the release of energy during goal celebrations at the King Power Stadium in recent weeks.
The earth moved yet again on Monday for scientists inspecting monitoring equipment installed 500m away at Hazel Primary School following Shinji Okazaki’s fantastic overhead kick winner during the first half against Newcastle. It also registered with equipment installed at the New Walk Museum, about a kilometre away.
Project leader Paul Denton, of the British Geological Survey, said the energy released by the King Power Stadium crowd after the winning goal measured just under 0.1 on the Richter scale, normally used to measure earthquakes.
He said: “It definitely registered, but was not quite as powerful as the goals scored against West Brom. The 0.3 registered by Leonardo Ulloa’s goal against Norwich a few weeks ago remains the most powerful we’ve recorded, however, that’s probably explained by the fact that it was a last-minute winner.”
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