Lessons from Russia 2018
Two years ago Shoji figured prominently for Kashima in their FIFA Club World Cup at Japan 2016, where, as hosts, they became the first Asian team to finish as runners-up.
More recently, he featured prominently for his nation at Russia 2018 as Japan reached the second round. Despite their eye-catching displays, however, Samurai Blue’s heart-breaking loss to Belgium left Shoji lamenting a missed opportunity as the Europeans stole a famous comeback victory through an injury-time strike.
“As a defender, it was a pity for me to lose the game at the very last moments. They grabbed the winner through a last-ditch counter-attack. I failed to thwart them. So I want to become a player capable of contributing to a win on such a big occasion.”
Now, with Kashima within a whisker of sealing their return to the Club World Cup, it would be another opportunity for Shoji to prove himself on the global stage at UAE 2018. “It would be a redemptive campaign for me as well as the team. Last time we participated in the competition representing the host nation as J.League champions, so I would like to fight as Asian champions this time around.”