Women’s Olympic Football Tournament
- Rikako Kobayashi starred as Japan gained first FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2014
- Scored 13 occasions as NTV Beleza completed third in 2020 Nadeshiko League
- Striker harbours excessive hopes with host nation for subsequent yr’s Olympic Games
When the curtain got here down on the 2020 Japanese Nadeshiko League on Saturday, it was Nippon TV Beleza’s younger striker Rikako Kobayashi who had emerged as one of the season’s greatest revelations.
The 23-yr-outdated ahead struck 13 occasions as her facet completed third on the standings. Notably, she accomplished a brace as Beleza romped previous Iga FC 6-1 earlier than scoring a treble in a 5-1 drubbing of Ehime. Kobayashi completed because the league’s third prime-scorer, simply 4 targets shy of Japan and Urawa Red Diamonds aim-machine Yuika Sugasawa.
Making the achievement all of the extra spectacular was her current position change. Usually deployed as a second striker, she was transformed into the No9 position filling the massive void vacated by Mina Tanaka, the league’s 4-time prime-scorer who departed for INAC Kobe Leonessa at first of the season. Shouldering the aim-scoring duties for the workforce, she duly lived as much as the expectations by ending as her facet’s prime scorer.
“She [Tanaka] was the player who had been leading the team all these years,” Kobayashi instructed FIFA.com. “So when she left, I felt a giant accountability to attain extra targets for my workforce. I attempted to keep up my aim-scoring kind and assist our facet to victories. I feel my starvation for targets, coupled with my improved health, ensured that I didn’t play badly.
“I have improved my finishing this season. As a forward, my job is to score goals. My team won’t win if I can’t find the back of the net. I will continue to work hard and try to earn the top-scorer award [next season].”
Realisation of early promise
In a way, Kobayashi may be very a lot residing as much as her early promise as one of Asia’s rising stars. Seven years in the past, the then teenager-striker introduced herself on the continental scene, placing seven targets in Asia’s qualifying for the 2014 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica the place Japan sealed passage as continental winners. Kobayashi continued to ship on the ensuing international showpiece, scoring twice as her facet clinched a maiden world crown.
She continued to make waves on the street to the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, scoring 4 occasions and ending because the match Most Valued Player because the Young Nadeshiko once more impressed. Stand-out shows noticed her earn the AFC Women Young Player of the Year award in 2015. With the heralded placing-prodigy eyeing her second World Cup at Papua New Guinea 2016, nevertheless, her hopes had been shattered resulting from an ACL harm.
“It happened in 2015 when I was in high school,” she mentioned. “I had two meniscus surgeries and spent two and a half years in rehabilitation. There was seemingly endless pain, which I was once afraid would stay with me for the rest of my life. My coaches, team-mates, family and fans gave me strong support and finally I was back to the field after completing recovery to health.”
As if to make up for the misplaced time, Kobayashi managed 11 targets from 15 outings upon her return in the 2019 season. And she stepped up one other gear this yr by establishing herself because the workforce’s new talisman.
“Despite all these hardships, I instructed myself always remember to benefit from the recreation. Playing soccer and having enjoyable in it’s a very powerful factor. I wish to turn into a participant who not solely makes a constructive affect on the sport, but additionally leaves a legacy in which the followers can have enjoyable.”
Kobayashi’s membership kind did not go unnoticed as she obtained her first nationwide workforce name-up final yr becoming a member of the Japan squad for the 2019 SheBelieves Cup. Her affect was speedy and after making her worldwide debut in a 2-2 draw in opposition to USA, she opened her account in a 3-1 defeat of Brazil. From there, she racked up three extra targets for her nation, together with in a 4-0 pleasant victory in opposition to Canada.
With Japan taking part in host for subsequent yr’s Olympic Women’s Football Tournament, the in-kind aim-getter has naturally switched her sights to scoring her first aim in a serious worldwide competitors.
“For me, it would be a very important tournament. As a young player I am in my best time of my career and it is a period which I should cherish. I am working hard and my desires are to help my team to a good result.”