Thu, 28 Oct, 2021
Doha: Shoya Nakajima targeted a medal at the 2016 Olympic Games after being awarded the Most Valuable Player presented by TOYOTA following Japan’s thrilling comeback victory over Korea Republic in Saturday’s AFC U23 Championship final.
Substitute Takuma Asano scored twice as Makoto Teguramori’s Japan, who had already secured qualification for Rio de Janeiro later this year after beating Iraq in the semi-finals, recovered from a two-goal deficit at the start of the second half to seal a dramatic victory.
And having featured for the full 90 minutes at Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium, Nakajima enjoyed a double celebration after being awarded the individual accolade.
“I’m very, very happy with the game and becoming champions and also to be honoured with the MVP award,” said Nakajima, who earlier scored twice in extra-time as Japan beat Iran 3-1 in the quarter-finals. “This honour is not only for me, but for all of the players and I would like to take this honour into the future.
“There were a few performances that I was satisfied with, however the coach has been giving me confidence and he kept using me throughout the tournament, so I believe I could put in a performance that would lead to the team’s victory and I’m really pleased that we were able to be the champions.”
Japan, who won Asia’s first medal at the Olympic Games in 1968, reached the bronze medal play-off at London 2012 only to lose to the Koreans.
“Since the creation of the team, I have been playing throughout and the main objective was to qualify for Rio de Janeiro and we knew how tough the Asian qualifying games would be, so I’m relieved,” added Nakajima, who racked up over 480 minutes in five appearances in Doha.
“But we are very eager for the future, to develop and improve so we can reach the medals at the world stage, so we have to try to do more.”
In addition, Japan received the Fair Play award to seal a hat-trick of accolades for the AFC U23 Championship winners.