Doha: A key player for Japan, Junya Ito is one of the first names on the team sheet and he will have to remain on song if the Samurai Blue are to survive arguably one of the toughest groups and reach the knockout stages of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
He may have struggled for game time when head coach Hajime Moriyasu first took over, but Ito soon warmed up when it came to the AFC Asian Qualifiers. In fact, red hot is the only way to describe his final-round performance, with four goals and two assists. Having also won a penalty, he had a hand in seven goals in all, more than half Japan’s total.
Even so, his road to the big time was more leisurely than fast track. He played football in high school and college, but his big break came when spotted by a scout. Next came a move to Ventforet Kofu, famous for an unlikely Emperor’s Cup victory in Japan. Hard work and resilience would then see him rise up the ranks to his present stellar status. .....
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