Soccer

New boy Ideguchi looking to make impact for Japan

by Gus Fielding

Kyodo

Gamba Osaka midfielder Yosuke Ideguchi is hoping to vindicate Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic’s handing him his first crack at the national team for Friday’s friendly against Oman and a crunch World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia next week in Saitama.

The Rio Olympian was called up after some eye-catching performances with Gamba and got his first taste of action with the senior side as its training camp got under way in Kashima on Sunday.

“It was a really enjoyable atmosphere. I was a bit nervous but the whole squad had not got together yet, and everything starts from here,” said the 20-year-old Ideguchi, one of 12 players to go through a light one-hour work out in chilly conditions on the Ibaraki coast.

“I have to show my strengths and be aggressive. I want to respond to the positive things the coach has been saying about me, and deliver results.”

Ideguchi made his league debut last season but only managed eight appearances, a figure he has far exceeded this year with 22 games under his belt.

He had Halilhodzic raving about his performance during Gamba’s match away at Kawasaki Frontale on Thursday, scoring as Gamba came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in the final game of the regular season.

“Getting forward is something for me that needed work as well as facing games with a confident attitude. I think I am doing these things and that is what has led to be me being picked,” said Ideguchi.

“I have been playing close to players that have broken into the full national team and wanted to experience the same thing. I am really happy I have been called up, but simply being called up has no meaning. The battle (to stay in the set-up) starts now.”

Ideguchi is one of four defensive midfielders that Halilhodzic has named to the squad.

When asked why instead of playmakers he has selected similar types in Ryota Nagaki and Hotaru Yamaguchi, as well as regular captain Makoto Hasebe, Halihodzic insisted that Ideguchi is not limited to a holding role

“The image I have in my mind is having two players in the same position but that can carry out completely different roles (to the ones they are used to),” Halilhodzic said when he announced his squad on Friday.

“Ideguchi can score goals and gets forward, but obviously I am not expecting him to do a decisive job straight away. The younger players tend to hold back the senior players, but I want him to be gutsy and aggressive.”

Hertha Berlin attacker Genki Haraguchi and Marseille defender Hiroki Sakai arrived on Sunday and joined the squad halfway through the session.

The rest of the European-based players are scheduled to arrive on Monday and Tuesday.

Japan is currently third in final World Cup qualifying Group B with seven points, behind leader Saudi Arabia (10) and Australia (8).