- Daiki Hashioka has thrived in his role with Urawa Red Diamonds
- 20-year-old defender is known for his attacking flair
- He is confident that Urawa can bounce back against Al Hilal
Urawa Red Diamonds face an uphill battle at home against Al Hilal in Sunday's 2019 AFC Champions League decider having lost 1-0 away in the final first leg earlier this month. Trailing by a goal, Tsuyoshi Otsuki's hosts side must score at least twice in the return if they are to seal the Asian title and book their ticket to the FIFA Club World Cup 2019 Qatar™.
Aside from the one-goal deficit, it was the superiority demonstrated by Al Hilal in the last outing that causes more concern for Urawa’s fans. Razvan Lucescu's charges dominated the proceedings throughout, producing over twenty shots as they recorded a deserved victory. In a sense, the West Asians are already the favoured side heading to the decider. But despite all this, Urawa defender Daiki Hashioka believes his side can bounce back and claim the continental crown.
"[Al Hilal] played very well in the first leg and we had few chances," the 20-year-old told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview. "But we conceded just one goal and we still have big hopes in the second leg. For me, I can see there are good chances in front of us."
"Of course, we need to score at least two and not concede any further goals to become champions. This means that we have to play with good balance between defence and attacking. As for my role, I think it's important that I shore up our defence and try to help with our attacking."
A passion for Puyol
Those following his game closely are all too aware what Hashioka is capable of. A defender usually deployed on the right flank, Hashioka has become known for his attacking flair in his debut AFC Champions League campaign this year, most notably in a group game against Buriram United when he bagged a brace in Urawa's 3-0 win.
The youngster went on to showcase his talents in the semi-final second leg against hosts Guangzhou Evergrande. Urawa entered the crucial match with a 2-0 lead but the desperate Guangzhou pressed hard from the outset and came close to pulling one back. With so much still at stake, Hashioka set up Shinzo Koroki to score the only goal which settled the crunch tie.
"It went just as I wanted," he reflected on the memorable moment. "When I got the ball, I had the thought of dribbling straight toward goal but an opponent tried to block me. Instantly, I changed my mind and opted to cut inside to provide the assist for my teammate. I was so happy that we made it."
A product of Urawa's youth academy, Hashioka has drawn inspiration from star players from Japan and beyond during his development. His idol is, however, former Barcelona defender Carles Puyol. "I like the way he played. He always played with passion and his commitment and devotion was moving. I want to become a player like him," he said.
An aggregate victory against Al Hilal will see Urawa become the first Asian team to win the title three times since the tournament's inaugural edition in 2003, something which gives Hashioka and his teammates added motivation.
"Of course, I want to be a history-maker. [If we win], we'll represent Asia in the Club World Cup, which features the best teams from the world. I want to compete against them and we'll try to win," he concluded.