We worked as one, says Japan’s Ko
Jianyin: Ko Itakura’s 90th minute goal against Thailand gave Japan a 1-0 victory and a spot in the AFC U23 Championship China 2018 quarter-finals, a result which he credited to team effort.
Japan had the majority of possession and shots on target against Thailand but despite their dominance, they struggled to break the Thai defence.
However, their efforts were finally rewarded when Ko’s right footed shot from close range found the back of the net courtesy of Kyosuke Tagawa’s headed pass.
“As soon as it went in, I was ecstatic,” said Ko. “It was a tough match.”
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The 20-year-old has proven to be a vital member of the squad, having also scored the only goal to beat Palestine in their opener, and he paid tribute to Japan’s teamwork on and off the pitch.
“We attacked together, and defended together on the field, with those who were playing in the game and those who weren’t.
“We all worked as one and that is why we were able to win.
Japan are set to face East Asian rivals DPR Korea in their final Group B match-up, and although the Kawasaki Frontale defender recognises the threat, his focus remains on improving as a team.
“It will definitely be a very tough game, so we need to improve ourselves. We will develop our team during training to prepare for DPR Korea.
“We know little about DPR Korea, but we know they have strong physiques and spirit. We will be well prepared for the next match.”