Celtic-linked Ko Itakura makes Olympic knockout stages with Japan
Reported Celtic target Ko Itakura has managed to qualify for the knockout stages at this summer’s Olympic Games with Japan.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Celtic had held talks with Manchester City regarding a potential loan deal for the defender [Daily Express].
However, in the meantime, he’s been with Japan’s Olympic contingent in his home nation, with this year’s event based in Tokyo.
Yet despite the pressure of representing the host nation, Itakura and Japan have had a superb group stage campaign. A 1-0 win against South Africa was followed up with an impressive 2-1 success against the Mexicans. Itakura played 90 minutes in both.
Today, Japan came up against France in their final group stage match knowing they only needed a point to top the group. Itakura came on for the final 18 minutes, with his side running out 4-0 winners to keep their 100% record going.
Itakura and his teammates will now face New Zealand in the quarter-finals on Saturday night in Kashima.
Celtic could be tracking a potential Olympic gold medallist in Ko Itakura
The draw has seriously opened up for Japan. Itakura and his countrymen have a real chance of bagging gold medals this summer.
You have to consider them favourites to knock out New Zealand in the quarters. Granted, the likes of Spain and Brazil still remain in the competition. Even so, if Japan reach the semi-final, it’s anybody’s tournament.
Celtic, meanwhile, will be hoping this doesn’t affect any potential pursuit of the City starlet. Itakura has made it clear that his ultimate goal is to join a “world-famous club” [Groningen Website]. That should help Celtic if we do look to progress a potential deal.
Of course, the further Japan go at the Olympics, the bigger boost in profile their key players will get. There will undoubtedly be plenty of club scouts at the Olympics, and so far Itakura hasn’t put a foot wrong.
But Celtic need to push hard for one more centre-back after the news that Christopher Jullien won’t be back for a couple of months. This has now become a priority position for Celtic once again.
For now, however, all eyes are on how far Itakura and Japan can go this summer.