- Kinoshita is the youngest player on Japan's squad
- She played a vital role in their qualification for Uruguay 2018
- The playmaker aims to recapture world title
Of the four matches on Tuesday's opening day of the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Uruguay, the pairing of Brazil and Japan stands out for an obvious reason: traditionally speaking, these are two nations with a proud history of producing technically-gifted teams.
Technical qualities are indeed something usually associated with Brazilian players. But in the women's game Japanese players have proved that they are second to none, particularly at the youth level. And this Little Nadeshiko squad boasts a creative prodigy in Momoka Kinoshita.
Born in March of 2003, the midfielder is the youngest player on the Japanese team. Despite her tender age, though, she excelled at her playmaking role as her side booked their passage to Uruguay 2018 during last year's AFC U-16 Women's Championship. Former head coach Naoki Kusunose lauded her as a "very technical and a dangerous player."
"It was an honour to earn those compliments," the 15-year-old told FIFA.com ahead of their opener against Brazil. "It boosts my confidence when I am praised for my technique."
Kinoshita raised quite a few eyebrows during the Asian qualifiers through her eye-catching play, driving the team from midfield and scoring twice, including netting an equaliser against Korea DPR in a group match. Having proved herself on the continental stage, she understandably aims to showcase what she is capable of in front of the watching world.
"As the playmaker, my tasks are to keep our rhythm," she said. "Our tactics are to maintain possession. I will try to move with the ball and help the team play the game we want. And of course, I want to score crucial goals and provide decisive assists."
Inspired by an icon
Considering that she plays for Nippon TV Menina, the youth academy of 15-time Nadeshiko League champions Nippon TV Beleza, Kinoshita's aspirations and inspiration comes from the very top. Bossing the midfield for the club is none other than Mizuho Sakaguchi, a Japan international who won the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Germany™.
"She is my idol," she said. "She can control the game [through her skills and experiences] and she is also able to come to the team's rescue with either crucial goals or assists. I am far from being at her level now but I want to learn from her as much as possible when we play together."
Kinoshita couldn’t hide her excitement ahead of making her World Cup debut. "To be honest, I am a bit nervous as this is our first World Cup. Meanwhile, I am excited to play on the world stage. One of my purposes set for the tournament is to enjoy the competition. And the best way to enjoy the World Cup is to do our best and play well as a team."