Takumi Minamino: Underdogs Japan need ‘classy’ talent to rediscover his sparkle

Takumi Minamino has lost his way at Monaco but must find his form in Qatar

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If Asian giants Japan are to finally make their mark at the World Cup in their seventh successive tournament they will need the myriad talents of Takumi Minamino in the toughest group.

The Samurai Blue are eyeing a quarter-final berth for the first time and will need all the firepower they can muster when they take on former world champions Germany and Spain.

Minamino has scored 17 goals in 43 appearances for Japan, cementing his place in 2018 during an impressive run of form in Austria with Salzburg. He has since earned a reputation as a dynamic midfielder with elegant dribbling, and a knack of shaking off opponents and creating chances from nothing.

His dazzling display at Anfield in the Champions League in 2019 put him on the radar of Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp, who lauded Minamino’s talent and described him as “classy” before bringing him to England three months later.

His two years at Anfield saw mixed results, however, and though his scoring prowess in cup competitions won over many Liverpool fans, his Premier League appearances came mostly off the bench and he failed to win a regular starting place.

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Minamino’s 10 Liverpool goals in 24 appearances in all competitions last season attracted a lot of interest, prompting a move to Monaco that came with a glowing reference from Klopp.

“An amazing professional. Super, talented player. As a person, he is full of warmth and makes everyone feel positive. A manager’s dream, to be honest,” Klopp said. “Perfect attitude, winner’s mentality.”

But Minamino’s form going into the World Cup has been dismal and his lack of goals and substitutions at Monaco saw him named top of Le Quotidien du Sport’s list of French league “flops”.

Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu will need Minamino to set that aside, rediscover his sparkle and keep delivering for Japan.

He helped them advance with a game remaining in Asian qualifying after a run of six straight wins and in the previous qualifying round scored in seven successive matches.

In that round Minamino netted nine of Japan’s staggering tally of 46 goals from eight matches, making him the second-highest scorer in the competition. He needs to find his form when it matters most in Qatar.

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