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Japan - September 07, 2021 09:30Veteran Hoshi out to 'cherish the Futsal World Cup moment'FIFA.com reportReport and photo courtesy: FIFA.com

7 Sept 2021
- Shota Hoshi scored key goals as Japan reached knockout stage for the first time in 2012
- The veteran cites former team-mate 'King Kazu' as an inspiration
- Japan have enjoyed a solid preparation ahead of Lithuania 2021

Japan coach Bruno Garcia Formoso has urged his players to 'cherish the moment' at the 2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania™. This, coincidentally, strikes a chord in veteran Shota Hoshi who has developed his own philosophy of 'enjoying the hardship' during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We had a hard time under the state of emergency," the 35-year-old told FIFA.com. "We couldn't play matches and had to train at home. But as I was getting older, I was able to enjoy it. I thought about enjoying and living each day. I am doing what I love and I should work with gratitude."

Japan have been handed hard assignments being grouped alongside two-time Futsal World Cup champions Spain, Paraguay and Angola at Lithuania 2021. With his newly-formed state of mind, however, Hoshi perhaps has the right state of mind heading into this week’s tournament.

"Spain are the hardest rivals for us. Paraguay are strong too considering that we lost to them in a friendly in 2019. Even Angola are a team which can't be underestimated if you watch how they played against Portugal. We need at least four points to progress."

Lithuania 2021 marks Hoshi's second global appearance having made his Futsal World Cup debut at Thailand 2012. Nine years back, the dynamic player struck twice as Japan reached the Round of 16 for the first time. With that fond memory still fresh in mind, Hoshi has fixed his sights on breaking new ground this time around.

"It's been nine years since we played at our last World Cup. It is our goals to build on our previous performance and reach the last eight. This result will have a special meaning for us because we want to showcase what progress we have made."


Inspired by 'King Kazu'

Arguably the second most successful side behind IR Ian in Asia, Japan have thrice won the AFC Futsal Championship title. They represented the continent at the inaugural FIFA Futsal World Cup Netherlands in 1989 before sealing qualification for three successive editions, namely Chinese Taipei 2004, Brazil 2008 and Thailand 2012.

Notably, Hoshi and Co. wrote their names into Japan's futsal folklore in Asia's third Futsal World Cup in Thailand, drawing against Portugal (5-5) and defeating Libya to seal maiden progression. Hoshi was on target in both matches and it was the goal against Libya which helped his team to a memorable victory.

"We faced a must-win scenario in that match. It was a match we really enjoyed. My goal contributed in earning the all-important victory. [Through it] I showed that Japan's futsal game is good. I think it was goal which helped open a new leaf in our history."

The driving force behind his heroics was, as he revealed, a legendary team-mate none other than Kazu Miura, known affectionately as 'King Kazu'. "He [Kazu] is an iconic figure whom I've been admiring since I was a kid," he recalled. "I learned a lot being together with him. We trained on the same pitch, competed against each other, ate at the same table. The experience is something which I will remember."


Sibling spirit

Hoshi's hopes of a strong campaign are not without reason considering Japan’s pre-tournament preparation. Since being nominated by AFC as one of continents' representatives at Lithuania 2021, the team, under Spaniard Formoso who took over in 2016, has sharpened their form. A series of international friendlies have been played against the likes of Argentina, Portugal, Spain, Venezuela and Vietnam as Formoso aims to forge the group into a competitive side.

"As our coach requires, each player of the team has to compete hard for a place to play. Even an experienced player like me doesn't have a guaranteed place. We are asked to give our 100 per cent in training," Hoshi said.

With veterans like Hoshi, Rafael Henmi and Ryosuke Nishitani remaining the backbone force of the team, a host of new faces have reinforced the squad, including brother Ryuta.

"In this Futsal World Cup, I am together with him [Ryuta]. It is a completely different feeling playing alongside your brother from other team-mates. We will form a unique brothers' combination and we want to contribute to Japan's success.”


Posted by Luca Ranocchiari --> luca.ranocchiari@futsalplanet.com
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