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Iniesta-inspired Furuhashi harbours high hopes with Japan

 Kyogo Furuhashi of Japan looks on during the international friendly match between Japan and South Korea 
© Getty Images
  • Kyogo Furuhashi finished as Vissel Kobe's top marksman last season
  • Attacker admits that he has drawn inspiration from team-mate Andres Iniesta
  • Aims to translate club form to international arena during Qatar 2022 campaign

If Kyogo Furuhashi's performances with Vissel Kobe last season are anything to go by, it seems that the attacker is set to bloom on the international stage commencing with Japan's 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™ qualifier against Mongolia on Tuesday.

The player, deployed either as a winger or attacker, racked up 17 goals in all competitions with Vissel Kobe in 2020 which saw him finish as the team's top-scorer. Notably, he was on target four times in his AFC Championship League debut helping Vissel storm all the way to last four.

His brilliant displays with Vissel didn't go unnoticed as he recently received his call-up to the Japan squad from coach Hajime Moriyasu. It marks a rare call-up having previously joined Samurai Blue during the 2019 edition of the Kirin Cup. Having failed to find the back of the net two years ago, the in-form goal-getter was keen on breaking his international duck this time around.

"I am very happy to be selected into the national team once again," the 26-year-old told FIFA.com. "I used to watch [the national team] on TV and now I am qualified to play for country [again]. I will try to push myself to score goals if I am given the chance to play. I want to do my best to help my team to a good result by scoring goals [against Mongolia]."

 Andres Iniesta of Vissel Kobe celebrates his goal with Kyogo Furuhashi
© Getty Images

Breakthrough campaign

Born in Ikoma, Furuhashi cut his teeth with Chuo University team before joining FC Gifu in 2017. After spending a season with the then second-division side, he was swooped up by Vissel in 2018. It was with the Kobe-based side that he quickly made a name for himself.

After a short acclimatisation in his first season, he exploded on to the local scene in 2019 grabbing 12 goals from 36 appearances. Notably, he netted twice in that year's Emperor's Cup, including sealing a 3-1 victory against Shimizu S-Pulse in the semi-final encounter. Vissel went on to down Kashima Antlers 2-0 in the final to win their first cup title and thus seal maiden AFC Champions League qualification.

Despite having never played on the continental scene, the dynamic predator showed little stage fright. He scored in their 5-1 group-opening win against Johor Darul Ta'zim, before bagging the match-winner against Suwon Bluewings and also netting in a 3-1 win against two-time winners Guangzhou Evergrande.

Furuhashi was not done yet. He scored his fourth goal of the campaign by netting the leveller against Suwon in the last-eight clash as the Japanese won on penalties.

Aside from the goals he accrued, it was the new experiences that Furuhashi cherished most. "It was unique feeling scoring in my AFC Champions League debut. The competition level was high and all the matches were hard-fought. It was learning process for the team, including me.

"I am grateful for having the chance of playing football so far down the years. I have kept honing skills and accumulating experiences and that has stood me in good stead today. You keep doing what you can and you will earn your chance game after game. I think I have grown mentally in this regard."

Partnership with Iniesta

Furuhashi's move to Vissel coincided with the club's eye-catching signing of Andres Iniesta in 2018. Inspired by the legendry Spanish playmaker and Vissel captain, Furuhashi made rapid progress establishing himself as the key man up front.

In fact, he has developed telepathic understanding with the former Barcelona midfield maestro and their partnership has become a familiar routine for Vissel.

"I feel that I have a very good relationship with him," he said. "If he moves with the ball, he [often] makes a pass to me. He sees me as a first option [to pass the ball to]. So I think I am trusted and I am confident to do my job well."

Looking ahead, Furuhashi voiced his ambitions to move his game to a higher level to repay those supporting him. “I wouldn’t have reached this level had it not been for great help and support from many people. And I also owe big thanks for my team-mates. What I can do is play well, convey courage, confidence and energy to all those watching us.”

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