GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – Full international Maya Yoshida has been named captain of the Japanese men’s Olympic soccer team, and is looking to redeem his country after a forgettable campaign four years ago in Beijing.
Yoshida was a member of Yasuharu Sorimachi’s side that lost all three group games at the last Summer Games as Japan’s bid to medal in soccer for the first time since Mexico 1968 fell hopelessly short.
But the VVV Venlo central defender, handed the armband Sunday by coach Takashi Sekizuka, is back for a second serving as one of Japan’s two overage players alongside FC Tokyo’s Yuhei Tokunaga, eyeing to right the wrongs of 2008.
“We’re carrying the Japanese flag, and we cannot allow ourselves to play as pathetically as we did last time,” Yoshida said. “We’ve got a lot of players with potential on this team and we have to show that we’ve learned from four years ago, not just for ourselves but for all of Japanese football.
“To go out the way we did four years ago just cannot happen again — no matter what.”
Japan is coming off back-to-back wins on English soil over Belarus and Mexico, two sides also in the Olympic competition. The first match for Sekizuka’s boys is Thursday, when they play Spain at Hampden Park.
Morocco and Honduras are also in the group. The top two from each group qualify for the quarterfinals, a stage Japan has not reached since Sydney 2000.
“I think there were some good things about our game as well as some bad ones,” Yoshida said of the 2-1 win over Mexico. “All in all, we found out what works and what doesn’t. We definitely got something out of the match for sure.”