Japan’s youngsters have been regular and welcome visitors to the FIFA U-17 World Cups in the past, on no fewer than eight occasions, in fact. And in all seven previous appearances, they made it through the group stages and into the knockout phase, frequently at a canter.
Things were different this time around in India, where they managed just four points from clashes with France (1-2), Honduras (6-1) and New Caledonia, their 1-1 draw against the tournament debutants in their final group match certainly throwing up more questions than answers.
Tuesday sees them pitted against England, who have caught the eye, as they notched up three wins and 11 goals, conceding just two, in the group stages to make them one of the favourites for the trophy.
If Japan are to have any chance, then they will need a big performance from Keito Nakamura at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium. Japan’s No13 has scored four of the Blue Samurai’s nine goals to date, as well as assisting on another. FIFA.com sat down with the attacker, and decided to turn the interview into a game of ‘Either … or…’.
England or Japan – who’s going to make it through to the quarter-finals?
Japan, obviously Japan! Without a shadow of a doubt.
Winning the title in Kolkata or watching the final on TV?
Winning the title in Kolkata. That was the aim we started off with two-and-a-half years ago. The team and I have been working towards this for a long time. It’s the only thing we talk about, the only thing we’re striving towards.
Happy or unhappy with Japan’s performances thus far?
Unhappy, when you look at the results. We want to and we have to be more aggressive and proactive.
Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi?
Ronaldo. Maybe because my style is more similar to his. I like how he dribbles with the ball and how he fires off shots on his right foot.
Europe or Japan – where do you see your future?
In Europe because a lot of Japanese internationals play there. That’s my aim too.
Shoot or dribble?
That’s a tough call. I’d have to say… shoot. Because that way I have a chance of scoring a goal.
Winger or through the middle?
On the wing. I can attack and create chances but also score goals myself.
Goal or assist?
Goal! Considering the position that I play…
Sushi or pizza?
Sushi. My favourite is actually sashimi (raw fish).
adidas Golden Boot or adidas Golden Ball?
Golden Ball as the best player in the tournament. I want to contribute to the success of the team in every aspect and not just score goals.