Maya Yoshida: Channelling the dedication, hard work and team spirit

While his teammates were taking on Hajduk Split in yesterday’s friendly, Maya Yoshida was back in Gelsenkirchen putting in the hard work on the training ground. The 34-year-old returned to Germany on Thursday after a short break following the World Cup.

“I’m just happy to be back at Schalke. I don’t like the weather very much though, its really cold!” joked the defender following his return. Yoshida was involved in four games at the World Cup with Japan and despite an already illustrious career and two pervious World Cup appearances in 2014 and 2018, the 34-year-old is still aware of how special the competition is: “It always makes me really proud when I put on my Japan jersey and have the chance to represent my country,” he explained.

Involved in every Japan game

Schalke’s number four played every minute of every Japan game at the World Cup. His side topped Group E with six points after a 2-1 win over Germany, a 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica and a 2-1 victory against Spain. Japan were then knocked out on penalties to Croatia in the round of 16, with Yoshida failing to convert his spot-kick.

The defender was also honest after the tournament and explained that his side had failed to achieve their goal of reaching the last eight: “We said in the run up to the World Cup that we wanted to get to the quarterfinals but unfortunately we didn’t manage to do that,” admitted Yoshida. Nevertheless, Japan did themselves proud with shock wins over Spain and Germany and proved many pre-tournament doubters wrong.

Full of motivation going into the new year

“After the defeat to Croatia I received lots of kind messages,” revealed Yoshida. The defender was also “very happy” that his teammates, including head coach Thomas Reis, sent the 34-year-old congratulatory messages after the tournament.

Yoshida believes that if Schalke channel the dedication, team spirit and commitment that Japan showed at the World Cup, then the Royal Blues can be successful in the second half of the season. “I am full of motivation, but it will certainly not be an easy task. I am, however, convinced that we will stay in the division. If we remain focussed, work hard and perform as a unit, then we will achieve our goal.”

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