- Paraguay 2019 is the goalkeeper’s ninth FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup
- Has gone from understudy to mainstay
- His aim: “We need to improve on our fourth place in 2006”
To be committed is one thing, but to be so committed that you would think nothing of saving a free-kick in a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup quarter-final with your face is something else entirely.
“I’m used to it and I didn’t even take my eyes off the ball,” Japan keeper Shingo Terukina told FIFA.com after putting his looks on the line in his side’s last-eight tie against Uruguay at Paraguay 2019.
It was an important save too, coming as it did with Japan leading 3-1 but under pressure as the South Americans fought back. “You can’t predict how the ball’s going to bounce off the sand, so you do what you can to get something behind it."
Terukina is the only Japanese player ever to have appeared at nine beach soccer world finals, though he started out as an understudy. Having conceded only 12 goals prior to Saturday’s semi-final against Portugal, he boasts the best record between the posts at Paraguay 2019.
Interestingly, he is also the only keeper among the 16 finalists who does not wear gloves.
“It’s so I can get a better feel of the ball when I’m throwing it out, which is important in this game,” said the 35-year-old with a smile. “My hands stopped hurting a long time ago.”
Those bare hands have taken him a long way. Since making his debut at Rio de Janeiro 2006 – his first beach soccer world finals – he has played 24 World Cup matches for his country, just four behind national record holders Teruki Tabata and Shusei Yamauchi.
Terukina, who hails from Okinawa, had yet to take up the game when Japan reached the semi-finals at the inaugural Beach Soccer World Cup in 2005, their only appearance in the last four until now.
“I’m delighted we’ve come this far, but I’ll only be satisfied if we improve on the fourth place we got then,” he said. “I’m not going to settle for anything less.”
The first step towards reaching that objective comes against Portugal, a team Japan have failed to beat in their three World Cup meetings. “They’re a great side and there's nothing I don't know about them,” Terukina explained. “We all need to be at our very best if we’re going to beat them.”
Nonetheless, the keeper has high hopes of kicking on and lifting the trophy: “How could I not think about it? We’ve come this far and that’s what we’re preparing for.”