Having been crowned MVP at last year's AFC U-19 Championship after helping Japan win that tournament for the first time, Ritsu Doan is aiming to shine on the global stage at May's FIFA U-20 World Cup. The diminutive midfielder is also looking to reprise a piece of his nation’s football history.
In 1999, the year after Doan was born, a talented Japan side took the U-20 World Cup by storm, finishing surprise runners-up – their best achievement in the tournament to date. Spearheading that golden generation was Shinji Ono, a midfielder who had picked up the AFC U-19 Championship MVP award before inspiring Japan’s run to the final in Nigeria. Now, with Doan having become just the second Japanese to claim the Asian qualifiers’ top individual award, the ambitious youngster is aiming to take up the former Feyenoord star’s mantle.
"He (Ono) is a great player and of course I want to become a good footballer like him," the 18-year-old Gamba Osaka winger told FIFA.com. "Those players (Japan’s 1999 U-20 side) are our heroes; they lifted Japanese football to a new level. It will be important for us to put in good performances (in Korea) if we are to follow in their big footsteps.".....
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