Soccer

Toulouse signee Gen Shoji confident he can cut it in France

Kyodo

Defender Gen Shoji said Sunday he is confident he can adjust to playing in the French top division and vowed to make a positive impact for his new club Toulouse.

“I’ve always wanted to be a player who can lead their team to victories, so I want to be that man with this team,” Shoji told a press conference after earlier this month signing a contract with Toulouse that stretches until 2022.

The 26-year-old Shoji, a key member of Japan’s squad at last year’s World Cup in Russia, moved to the French side from J. League first division club Kashima Antlers.

“I have an impression that players in the French first division are physically strong,” Shoji said. “But one of my strengths is the ability to look at how the opposing players perform and change how I deal with them. I think I will be able to adjust and be flexible.”

Shoji contributed to Japan reaching the round of 16 in Russia and helped Kashima claim its first AFC Champions League title in November.

He said he received his first offer from Toulouse last summer and decided to make the move after the club approached him again during the winter.

“I made this decision because I wanted to play for this club,” Shoji said.

The Hyogo Prefecture native, known for his positional and ball-winning prowess, began his career with Antlers in 2011 and helped the team win the league in 2016. Kashima placed third in the 18-team J1 last season.

Wearing a purple polo shirt, Shoji said, “Kashima’s uniform is red, so this time I want to be a player who looks good in purple.”

Toulouse finished 18th in the 20-team Ligue 1 last season but escaped relegation after beating third-place second division side Ajaccio in a promotion-relegation playoff.

After 18 games in the current season, Toulouse sits 13th on the table with a record of five wins, six draws and seven losses.