Japan’s Keito Nakamura Strikes Twice as High-Scoring Samurai Blue Bests Turkey in International Soccer Friendly in Belgium

Hiroto Sekiguchi / The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan’s Keito Nakamura scores his second goal against Turkey in the first half on Tuesday in Genk, Belgium.

GENK, Belgium — A potential weapon has emerged for Japan’s potent attack as Keito Nakamura scored twice during a 4-2 victory over Turkey in an international friendly on Tuesday in Belgium.

Atsuki Ito scored his first goal for the national team to open the scoring while a Junya Ito penalty kick made up the final margin, as Japan followed up its 4-1 thumping of Germany with another four-goal outburst.

“Scoring four goals in soccer is wonderful,” said Japan head coach Hajime Moriyasu, “but I want the players to further raise their game to take advantage of scoring chances. To win in Asia and around the world, we have to improve while playing tenaciously.”

After Japan took the lead in the 15th minute at Cegeka Arena in Genk, 23-year-old Nakamura stretched it to 3-0 before halftime with goals in the 28th and 36th minutes, as he states his case to be an established member of Samurai Blue.

Europe-based Nakamura scored his first by pouncing on a rebound after the opposing goalkeeper stopped a Takefusa Kubo shot. Eight minutes later, a cross from Seiya Maikuma found Nakamura in the penalty area, who deked a defender and fired in his second goal.

Nakamura is vying for a spot on Japan’s left wing with Kaoru Mitoma, who plays for Brighton in England’s Premier League. Mitoma might have the edge in speed and dribbling ability, but Nakamura possesses strength near the goal rather than from the wing. He is one of the few players on the Japan squad with the creativity and coolness to get into space, traits that showed up in the two goals.

This season, Nakamura made the step up to one of the five top leagues in the world by joining the French first-division’s Stade Reims, where Junya Ito also plays. Although he has yet to score a goal for the club, it seems just a matter of time.

“Once I get unstuck, things will start working out,” Nakamura said.

In his five seasons in Europe, the former Gamba Osaka player has gone through times when he has seen limited action, but he remains firmly grounded. He approaches his national team duty with the enthusiasm of a rookie.

“Being on the national team is special,” said Nakamura, who now has three goals in three matches for Samurai Blue as part of the national team’s post-World Cup transformation in the attack. “Every time, I’m really happy.”