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FIFA U-17 World Cup: Japan may rest regulars, Kubo included against New Caledonia

Japan may rest players against New Caledonia in their last match in Group E of FIFA U-17 World Cup. A win or a draw will be enough to send Japan through to the next stage.

fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 13, 2017 22:09 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
FIFA U-17 World Cup,Japan U-17 National football team,New Caledonia U-17 national football team
Japan will start as firm favourites against New Caledonia in the Group E encounter of FIFA U-17 World Cup.(HT Photo)

Intimations of immortality even before you cross teenage years can weigh you down. Especially if you are projected as a Messi made in Japan with little help from La Masia.

Having already played the U-20 World Cup, attacking medio Takefusa Kubo’s ears must be ringing with that. Here with the Japan national team, Kubo was the cynosure as the team knocked the ball around; the 16-year-old’s free-kick from the right immediately sparking comparisons with that Argentinean left foot.

“There are people in Japan who may not follow the J-League but everyone knows about Kubo,” said Wataru Funaki who is a writer with the website ‘footballchannel’, among the 30 who have travelled for this under-17 World Cup.

Such predictions of greatness can go as off kilter as the England cricket team’s search for the next Botham. Funaki said Kubo shies away from the spotlight and doesn’t like the comparison. He wouldn’t be the only one. Asked by Hindustan Times how he felt about being called ‘White Pele’, Zico had bristled and said in 2014 Pele and I are different people.

Kubo just wants to focus on the pitch,” said another Japanese journalist.

That’s unlikely to happen here on Saturday against New Caledonia in group E. Japan coach Yoshiro Moriyama dropped enough hints of resting regulars so that he can get the best team in the round of 16 which they are likely to play here on October 17.

“Every match from thereon can be our final match and we will treat them as such…But our target is not just to get beyond the group stage,” said Moriyama, after training here on Friday.

“We have a number of players eager to play and we will try some new ones and some of those who have played in the earlier games.” About Kubo he said: “We are not depending on one player, be it Kubo or (Keito) Nakamura (who scored the tournament’s first hattrick). We can play the football we want with whoever is on the pitch.”

New Caledonia have shipped 12 goals in two games so Moriyama would back his irregulars to fetch the win which will seal a pre-quarter finals berth.

So, maybe for once Kubo, who showed glimpses of prodigious talent at La Masia till Barcelona’s breaching transfer rules forced him to join FC Tokyo, wouldn’t mind being on the bench at a stadium where Japan beat India 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier. Japan would want him at full tilt later.

First Published: Oct 13, 2017 20:13 IST