Scouting Japan: Part Five by Jake McGhee
Tall, powerful and athletic are words which all encapsulate Jubilo Iwata’s star boy Keisuke Goto. A Jack of all trades Keisuke is a centre-forward by name but in game he has been seen to drop deep and operate as a central midfielder too, almost as if he was playing as a false-9. His physicality and 6”3 frame allow for him to drop into these deep positions and hold the ball up well in order to buy his teammates time to launch an attack before laying the ball off to a winger and using his pace to join the attack himself. His positional sense is very developed for such a young age, almost having free roam in this space between the focal point of attack and as a 10 allows for his creativity to flourish and often results in him peeling off into wide positions to offer himself as an outlet. This drifting out wide especially when operating in the midfield is a hallmark of a position referred to as a ‘mezzala’ which translates as ‘half-winger’ from Italian, notable Mezzale would be Milinkovic-Savic and Kovacic: creative players who are comfortable operating out wide too.
When operating in a more advanced role Keisuke enjoys staying on the shoulder of the last defender and utilising his surprising agility for someone his size to pin and roll his marker to fashion an opening which more often than not results in him tucking the ball away with a tidy finish. In 13 appearances he has found the net 8 times in the Takamodo U18 PL West so far this season, his most recent goal is linked here and offers a taster of what the lad is all about.
At just 17 Japan and the rest of the world really is his oyster as his goal-scoring exploits may well earn him a move elsewhere.
If there’s one thing defenders hate it’s being ran at, knowing this it’s safe to say Hidemasa Koda isn’t a favourite amongst his opposite numbers. Agile, small and blessed with blistering pace Hidemasa is a top prospect rising through the ranks at Nagoya Grampus. His quick feet, fearlessness and willingness to run at his man all contribute to making Hidemasa one of the leagues most promising young attacking midfielders, operating centrally or out wide he is a live spark and enjoys slaloming runs between centre backs and cutting infield, think of a more speedy Riyad Mahrez. His sharpness and agility make him a nightmare for centre halves as he excels when facing his man up and beating him with a piece of magic as seen here for his goal against Cambodia when playing for Japan’s U23s.
It’s inevitable that he will continue to grow and at only 19 he looks like a player who could be touted for a move abroad soon.
Being a nailed on starter at 20 years old is a respectable feat at any club, and Haruya is no different. A mainstay in this Grampus outfit the centreback is a familiar face in the back line, featuring 29 times in the league this season. Aerially dominant and intelligent Haruya often cuts out passing lanes whether on the ground or in the air putting his 6”1 stature to good use, his speed is another key aspect of his game as if he makes a mistake he can make up the ground quickly to go again. After winning the ball he often drives forward and carries the ball into a more advanced role into the midfield and pushing his team up the pitch.
From age 5 to the present day at 22 Yuji has been an Avispa player. A player who has the club ingrained within himself and is a real fan favourite, the left sided player is a handful to his opposing fullback with sharp feet and good balance. Although not the most refined physically he is a willing runner and has good stamina, often he contributes defensively and motors back to help out when possession turns over. The young wideman is also a good passer of the ball and boasts a strong range of passing with the ability to play balls in behind too, his abilities are somewhat let down by his teams struggling form, sitting 15 th in the J-League they’ve struggled this season and are still in contention to drop down, this may be a blessing in disguise for Yuji though as it will offer him more opportunities in games in the J2 division.