Football prodigy Takefusa Kubo (Real Sociedad) celebrated a “spectacular debut” by assisting his team’s fourth goal just one minute into his return from injury.
Kubo scored a minute after coming on as a 39th-minute substitute in the first leg of Vietnam’s Group D match at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup 2023 at the Altoumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar on Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET).
It was a spectacular comeback. With Japan leading 3-2 in the 40th minute, he slipped a pass to Ueda in the box. 토토 Ueda’s shot deflected off the Vietnamese defense and into the goal. It was a simple, intelligent pass.
Kubo injured his quadriceps in his left thigh in the match against Alaves before his call-up to Japan. He did not participate in training even after arriving in Qatar. He also missed the “final evaluation match” against Jordan (6-1 win) before the Asian Cup on Sept. 9.
He was also late to the team’s training sessions. Kubo made his first appearance on the training field on Nov. 11 and checked his fitness with passing drills. “I don’t know if I’ll play in the group stage yet,” Kubo told Japan’s Football Zone at the time, “but my teammates were jokingly asking me to rest until my injury was fully healed. “I had a lot of thoughts. I haven’t won a title since I turned pro. My teammates told me to come back with a title,” he said, making no secret of his desire to play and win.
It’s an early call-up. Japan’s head coach, Hajime Moriyasu, brought Kubo in to check on his game with Vietnam leading. Contrary to his worries, he provided an assist, making Moriyasu smile.
Japan got off to a flying start, scoring the first goal of the day, but were leveled four minutes later when Vietnam’s 19-year-old striker Nguyen Dinh Bac met a backheader from a corner kick. It rattled the left corner of the net. It went in at an angle that the goalkeeper couldn’t handle.
The lead was gone. Pham Thuan Hai rattled the Japanese net with a rebound shot.
But Japan, the favorites to win the tournament, rallied around the Europeans. Minamino equalized in the 45th minute off a forward pass from Endo, and Nakamura made it 3-2 in first-half stoppage time with a right-footed curling shot from the left side of the penalty box.
After conceding two goals in an exhibition match against Turkey (4-2) in September last year, Japan continued its ‘favorite’ form by winning 11 straight A-matches, despite conceding two goals in seven games.
Japan will look to make it two wins in a row when they face Iraq in their second group game on Sept. 19.