Fujino: I Was Determined to Score

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Nadeshiko coach Futoshi Ikeda, center, congratulates Aoba Fujino after the midfielder scored the team’s second goal against Costa Rica on Wednesday at the Women’s World Cup in Dunedin, New Zealand.

DUNEDIN, New Zealand — When Nadeshiko needed something extra against Costa Rica in the group stage of the Women’s World Cup on Wednesday, it came courtesy of a wonder strike from 19-year-old Aoba Fujino, who became the first Japanese teenager to score in the women’s soccer showcase in a 2-0 victory that sealed Japan’s spot in the knockout stages with a game to spare.

“I was determined to score a goal today,” Fujino said after the match in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Fujino’s deft ball control left a Costa Rican defender on the floor in the 27th minute, as the teen midfielder drove towards goal from the right wing before blasting a shot past goalkeeper Daniela Solera, who was beaten at her near post.

The shot was “just as I’d pictured it in my mind,” said Fujino, who announced herself on the world stage with a spectacular goal.

Fujino started playing soccer when she was in kindergarten. After graduating from Jumonji Senior High School in Tokyo, she joined the women’s football team Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza.

She was part of the squad that came runner-up in the 2022 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup that was coached by Futoshi Ikeda, the current manager of Nadeshiko Japan.

Fujino said she was shocked when she received her first Nadeshiko call-up in October. She wanted to play in the World Cup but thought it might be too soon. Since then, she has developed rapidly.

On the national team, Fujino has had the opportunity to face strong opponents, which has helped her improve as a player. Coming up against top defenders, she has had to work on her runs to receive the ball and the timing of her shots.

In less than a year since her senior team debut, she has cemented a place on the Nadeshiko roster.

When asked about her goal in Wednesday’s World Cup match, she smiled saying, “I was under a little pressure.”

“It’s important to make a mark in history, but the most important thing is for the team to win,” she said. “I want the end result to be us as number one in the world.”