Japan’s beach soccer players make history

  • Japan are in the final of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Russia 2021™

  • They have never finished higher than fourth place before

  • Takuya Akaguma instrumental in semi-final win over Senegal

As the final whistle sounded to confirm their 5-2 victory over Senegal in the semi-final of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Russia 2021™, Japan’s players dropped onto the sand, embraced each other and celebrated, scarcely able to fathom what they had just achieved. “It’s just unbelievable and indescribable,” hat-trick hero Takuya Akaguma told FIFA.com with a broad smile on his face. “We came here to Russia and wanted to have a good World Cup, but we didn’t expect to reach the final.”

With eight goals under his belt at this tournament so far, the 30-year-old is also in with a good chance of becoming the adidas Golden Scorer, with only Swiss duo Dejan Stankovic (10) and Glenn Hodel (9) ahead of him. “That doesn’t matter,” insisted Akaguma. “The final is the only thing that counts now.”

Their opponents in the decider will be none other than hosts RFU, who won a nail-biting encounter with Switzerland on penalties. “We still need to make amends for our group stage match against the Russians, as it was our worst game (they lost 7-1). We had already qualified and they needed a win. It just went badly for us.”

The scorer of Japan’s only goal in their third group match was Akaguma – who else? The upcoming clash also brings back memories of Paraguay 2019, when this year’s two finalists met in a third place play-off that Japan narrowly lost 5-4. “I still remember that match, of course. We wanted so badly to win our first medal that day, but it didn’t work out. Now we’ve already got ourselves a medal, but we’ll have to wait and see whether it will be gold or silver!”

The Samurai Blue still managed to take home something golden two years ago as Japanese beach soccer legend Ozu Moreira was named the tournament’s best player. Captain Ozu is still a key member of the team in 2021, albeit in a slightly different position. “Ozu is our rock in defence,” Akaguma explained. “He directs us from the back and gives us instructions on how we should play or where we should be. Granted, he needs a few more rest periods every now and then, but he’s such an important factor for us.”

Japan will hope that their factor makes all the difference by the time the final whistle blows on this Beach Soccer World Cup on Sunday evening. Who will emerge victorious – the Samurai Blue or the Russian hosts? “We will give it our all. Even if that’s not enough in the end, we will still go home proud with our heads held high. After all, we’ve already made history.”

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - AUGUST 28: Ibrahima Balde of Senegal battles for possession with Ozu Moreira of Japan  during the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2021 Semi Final match between Japan and Senegal at Luzhniki Beach Soccer Stadium on August 28, 2021 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Octavio Passos - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)