Celtic-linked Ko Itakura's fine performance vs Neymar highlighted by Japan boss

By David Walton

June 6, 2022

Celtic-linked Ko Itakura today delivered a fine performance to keep Neymar quiet in Tokyo and it was quickly highlighted by Japan boss Hajime Moriyasu.

Celtic are reportedly aware of Itakura’s situation with the player now becoming available after Schalke couldn’t afford to buy him from Man City. Sky Sports believe the Hoops are keeping track of developments, albeit no contact between the clubs has been made.

Today, he was alongside Kyogo Furuhashi in Japan’s starting XI against Brazil. It took a late Neymar penalty to win the game for Tite’s star-studded side, but only after the PSG superstar was frustrated by Itakura throughout the contest.

Photo by Kenta Harada/Getty Images

His display also brought some praise from Japan boss Moriyasu, who highlighted Itakura as part of the reason his team didn’t crumble. As quoted by Sakanowa, Moriyasu said: “Itakura did a good job of holding his own in a situation where a lapse in judgment could have resulted in another goal. His contribution was a big part of the reason why the team was able to fight without collapsing.”

The game was Itakura’s 10th cap for Japan after a title-winning season with Schalke in the Bundesliga 2.

It remains to be seen how much his valuation is this summer. However, Schalke reportedly had an option-to-buy fee of over £6m [Sky Sports].

Ko Itakura a difficult nut to crack for Neymar

Credit to Itakura for his performance, with the stats backing up a solid display against one of the heavyweights of world football.

Indeed, stat-trackers Fotmob have clocked him as making 3 blocks and 3 recoveries whilst not once being dispossessed in the entire match. Itakura is said to have won 4 of his 8 ground duels whilst winning his only aerial battle of the match.

But perhaps one of the biggest pluses for Ange Postecoglou was the defender’s success in his distribution throughout the game. Despite Brazil putting on a high-intensity press, Itakura still managed an 88% pass success rate. 37 of his 42 passes made their mark.

Photo by Kaz Photography/Getty Images

He twice foiled Neymar on occasions that looked a certain goal, and after a tricky start he didn’t look out of place against the PSG man and Richarlison.

There’s been no confirmation or hints that Celtic are set to make a move for the Manchester City-owned defender. However, this performance bodes well when it comes to his ability to step up to the big occasion.

We learned a lot about Itakura today, and it looks promising to say the least.

In other news, Report: Former Celtic striker set for Turkey after brief Scottish football return