Soccer

Takehiro Tomiyasu hoping to crack Bologna starting lineup by opening day

Kyodo

Japan center-back Takehiro Tomiyasu said Monday he aims to be in the starting lineup for Bologna when the Italian first-division season kicks off late next month.

Tomiyasu — whose move to Bologna from Belgian side Sint-Truiden was confirmed last Tuesday — flew out of Narita airport near Tokyo to join his new team.

“I want to prove I belong in the starting 11 on opening day,” Tomiyasu said before boarding his flight.

The 20-year-old, who played all three games for Japan at the recent Copa America, said he looked forward to defending some of the world’s best strikers in Serie A.

“I aim to improve my defensive skills. Going up against top-class strikers will help my development,” he said.

Tomiyasu, who joined Sint-Truiden from J. League second-division side Avispa Fukuoka in January 2018, is expected to be a key member of Japan’s Olympic team at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

With 15 caps for the senior national team, the 187-cm defender said he welcomed a leadership role for both his club and country.

“I want to be a player who can marshal the team from the back. Even if I hit a wall, I don’t want to quit,” he said.

His new teammates at Bologna include Chile midfielder Erick Pulgar, who scored for the South Americans in a 4-0 win over Japan at the Copa America in Brazil.

Tomiyasu follows in the footsteps of former Japan great Hidetoshi Nakata in joining Bologna, who finished 10th in Serie A last year. Nakata, whose career included more than 180 Serie A games, played for Bologna on loan from Parma in 2004.