Shinji Okazaki (岡崎 慎司, Okazaki Shinji, born 16 April 1986) is a Japanese footballer who plays for Leicester City, and for the Japan national football team as a forward.
At club level, Okazaki is the most prolific Japanese player in Bundesliga history. Internationally, he is currently the top active Japan national team goalscorer and third all-time in team history with 49 goals. He won the Premier League with Leicester in 2016.
After graduating Takigawa Daini High School in 2004, Okazaki signed full professional terms with Shimizu S-Pulse the following year. In December 2005, he made his first J. League appearance as a substitute against Sanfrecce Hiroshima. On 15 April 2007, he scored his first professional goal against Kawasaki Frontale. Okazaki ended his first season as a first team player with three goals from 13 matches.
Okazaki scored ten times in 27 matches during the 2008 J. League season and also represented S-Pulse in the J. League Cup Final, where the team lost 2–0 to Oita Trinita. He continued his promising goalscoring in the 2009 and 2010 seasons and, in January 2011, was signed by German side VfB Stuttgart of the Bundesliga.
On 30 January 2011, Okazaki signed a three-and-a-half year contract with Stuttgart. On 17 February 2011, clearance to play for the club was granted for Okazaki by FIFA. He made his competitive debut for VfB on the same night in a Europa League match against Benfica. On 20 February 2011, Okazaki made his Bundesliga debut for VfB against Bayer 04 Leverkusen. Okazaki scored his first goal against Hannover 96, which he scored from outside the box.
Okazaki came on as a second-half substitute for Stuttgart in their first game of the 2011–12 Bundesliga season against FC Schalke 04. His side were up 2–0 and Okazaki added a goal scoring from long range in the 90th minute, sealing a 3–0 win. Okazaki's goal from a bicycle kick on 19 February 2012 in a Bundesliga match of VfB Stuttgart against Hannover 96 was selected Goal of the Month. After Yasuhiko Okudera in April 1978, Okazaki was the second player from Japan to win this award in Germany.
Okazaki had a poor 2012–13 season, scoring only once in the Bundesliga. However, he scored his first goals in European competition with two goals against FC Steaua București in the Europa League.
1. FSV Mainz 05
On 1 July 2013, Okazaki moved to 1. FSV Mainz 05. He scored his first goal for Mainz on his debut in a 3–2 win against his former club Stuttgart on the opening matchday of the 2013–14 Bundesliga season. At the end of the season he ended with 15 league goals.
Okazaki became the most prolific Japanese player in Bundesliga history on 13 September 2014, scoring his 27th and 28th league goals in Mainz's 3–1 win over Hertha Berlin.
On 26 June 2015, Okazaki moved to Premier League side Leicester City for a fee believed to be in the region of £7 million, subject to obtaining a work permit. He made his debut for the club on 8 August 2015 in Leicester City's 4–2 opening day win against Sunderland, and scored his first goal for the club the following week in a 2–1 win against West Ham United. On 19 December 2015, Okazaki scored the winner in a 3−2 win over Everton at Goodison Park, to ensure that Leicester City topped the table at Christmas. On 10 January 2016, Okazaki scored Leicester's second goal in the FA Cup clash at White Hart Lane with Tottenham Hotspur despite drawing to a late Harry Kane penalty in the 90th minute. On 14 March 2016, Okazaki scored the winning goal in a league fixture against Newcastle United, a spectacular overhead strike that won Leicester City the game 1–0 and took them five points clear at the top of the Premier League table. Okazaki went on to win the league that year after Spurs drew with Chelsea on 2 May 2016, thus becoming the second Japanese player to win the Premier League after Shinji Kagawa.
His performances in the 2015-16 season earned him the Asian International Player of the Year award in December 2016.
Okazaki scored twice in a 2-4 defeat to Chelsea in the third round of the 2016-17 EFL Cup on 20 September 2016. He scored his first league goal of the season in a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace on 22 October 2016, earning him Man of the match and achieving an 84.8% pass success rate, more than any other Leicester player.
After competing for the country's under-23 team at the 2008 Olympic Games in China, Okazaki made his full international debut for Japan against the United Arab Emirates in October 2008. On 20 January 2009, he scored his first goal for Samurai Blue in the team's opening 2011 AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Yemen.
In October 2009, Okazaki scored hat-tricks in consecutive matches as Japan beat Hong Kong and Togo 6–0 and 5–0 respectively. He was named The World's Top Goal Scorer of 2009 by the IFFHS for his 15 goals with the national team.
Okazaki was included in Japan's squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and appeared as a substitute in all four of the team's matches. He scored once in the final Group E match, a 3–1 defeat of Denmark, to send the Japanese into the second round.
On 8 October 2010, Okazaki scored the only goal as Japan beat Argentina 1–0 in friendly match to record its first ever win over the 1978 and 1986 world champions.
Okazaki scored his third international hat-trick in a 5–0 Group B win against Saudi Arabia at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. He then scored his kick in the semi-final shootout win over South Korea and played all 120 minutes of the final as Japan beat Australia to win the trophy for a fourth time.
Okazaki finished as top goalscorer in the Asian section of qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup with eight goals.
Okazaki scored twice at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, against Italy and Mexico respectively. However, Japan lost all three of its matches and was eliminated at the end of the group stage.
In June 2014, Okazaki was selected in Japan's squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. In the team's third group match, a 4–1 defeat to Colombia, he scored Samurai Blue's only goal with a header in the 45th minute.
Okazaki was included in Japan's squad for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup and scored in a 4–0 defeat of Palestine during the group stage.
Okazaki is currently the top active Japan national team goalscorer and third all-time in team history with 49 international goals.
- As of 15 January 2017
|Shimizu S-Pulse||2005||J. League Division 1||1||0||3||0||1||0||-||5||0|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||2013–14||Bundesliga||33||15||2||0||-||-||35||15|
|Leicester City||2015–16||Premier League||36||5||2||1||1||0||0||0||39||6|
1Includes Emperor's Cup, DFB-Pokal, FA Cup and Community Shield.
2Includes J. League Cup and EFL Cup.
3Includes UEFA Europa League and UEFA Champions League.
- As of 15 November 2016
- Leicester City
- Premier League: 2015–16
- AFC Asian Cup: 2011
- AFC International Footballer of the Year: 2016