The future of Japan’s promising attack was on full display Tuesday as the Samurai Blue put four goals past the vaunted defense of the world’s fifth-ranked side, Uruguay.
Tucked in behind Werder Bremen striker Yuya Osako was 20-year-old Groningen starlet Ritsu Doan, 23-year-old Red Bull Salzburg forward Takumi Minamino and 24-year-old Portimonense midfielder Shoya Nakajima, and the quartet combined to provide the likes of Diego Godin, Sebastian Coates, Lucas Torreira and Rodrigo Bentancur a nightmarish night at Saitama Stadium.
Takumi scored a brace, Osako had one and Nakajima provided an assist, but the historical legacy of this match will certainly be the goal scored by Doan, his first senior goal in his second international cap. It also showcased some of his best attributes: intelligent movement, a world-class left foot and a cool head in front of goal.
Ritsu Doan scores his first goal for Japan pic.twitter.com/oZ1wG8Ux7z— Oliver Trenchard (@OliverTrenchard) October 16, 2018
Doan began his career with Gamba Osaka in Japan and represented his country at the U-16, U-19 and U-20 levels. It was at the 2017 U-20 World Cup that he really made a name for himself, scoring three goals in four matches (including a brace against Italy in the group stage).
Directly after the tournament, he joined Groningen of the Dutch Eredivisie on loan. Still just 19, the attacking midfielder registered nine goals and four assists in 29 appearances last season. The nine goals were the most a teenager had ever scored for Groningen in the top division, bettering a mark set by one Arjen Robben back in 2001-02.
Groningen quickly acted to make the transfer permanent, going so far as to reject Manchester City’s offer to help finance the move so that the they possessed the sole stake in the player.
On the back of his breakthrough season, Doan was named one of 10 finalists for the inaugural presentation of the Ballon d’Or Kopa Trophy (the international award for the best-performing player under the age of 21).
While Doan’s contract in the Netherlands goes through 2021, he’s reportedly being closely monitored by Bayer Leverkusen, Galatasaray and City. As the above highlights showcase, he’s almost impossible to get off the ball, his left foot is a paint brush and he’s scoring goals with abnormal consistency for a 20-year-old.
Japan’s one of the guest teams at the 2019 Copa America next summer, and we’re already excited to see Doan and company down in Brazil.