Shiotani has a reputation for finding the net in the J.League, so Japanese football fans would not have been surprised to see him open the scoring against Mazembe late in the first half. If Shiotani scores once more at this tournament, he will equal the Hiroshima club’s record of three goals at a FIFA Club World Cup set by ace striker Hisato Sato in 2012. While Shiotani’s performances have been widely praised, he modestly insists his goals were the products of a solid team effort.
Shiotani’s development into a pillar of Hiroshima’s defence has been a steady progression during his five-year professional career. After graduating from university, he played for second-tier club Mito Hollyhock for about 18 months before signing with Sanfrecce midway through the 2012 season. He made a major contribution to Hiroshima’s J.League titles in 2012 and 2013. Yet, Shiotani had not been selected for age-grade teams, and even at university, he was never touted as a player to watch in the future. Five years ago, nobody imagined he would be scoring goals at a FIFA Club World Cup – a tournament he is excited to be involved in.
I’ve been fortunate to meet some wonderful people during my career. They have helped me reach where I am today.
Tsukasa Shiotani, Sanfrecce Hiroshima defender
“It’s a wonderful event at which we can test how far our abilities can take us,” the defender said.
The 27-year-old has built himself into a reliable centre back through his willingness to work hard whenever he laces up his boots. The greatest influence on his career has been former Japan international defender Tetsuji Hashiratani, who coached Shiotani at Kokushikan University and later at Hollyhock. Sanfrecce coach Hajime Moriyasu has been another trusted mentor who has shaped Shiotani’s style of play. Under the watchful eyes of these two former internationals, Shiotani has developed into an international and is hopeful of adding to his two caps as he looks to become an integral part of the Samurai Blue as they prepare for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.
“I’ve been fortunate to meet some wonderful people during my career. They have helped me reach where I am today,” Shiotani said. “I’m grateful for their help, and I want to keep this sentiment in mind each time I play. I’ll keep improving my skills so I refine my game even further for the people who have supported me.”
Given that Shiotani aims to become a defender capable of regularly competing on the international stage, seeing first-hand the speed and power of Mazembe forwards Roger Assale and Mbwana Samatta was an invaluable experience. “I noticed the Mazembe players had very long legs. Their speed and skills were as impressive as I had expected them to be,” Shiotani said after the 3-0 victory in Osaka. “But as a team, we were organised and prevented them from scoring. This was a brilliant performance.”
Next up for Sanfrecce is a showdown with Argentinian giants River Plate. Although Shiotani admits he does not watch a lot of football, even he is aware of the challenge ahead. “River Plate is a very famous club with a history that everyone has heard of, even me,” he said, unable to contain his excitement. “They are an amazing team, so I’m really looking forward to this game.”
The River Plate line-up features a sprinkling of stars such as forward Javier Saviola. For Shiotani, getting on the scoresheet again is of secondary importance to fulfilling his main role of defusing the attacking threats posed by the South American champions.
“I want to play football at a high level, so I need to know how far I can go and how my skills stand up,” Shiotani concluded. “I want to test my ability against a top-class side such as River Plate.”