Ko Itakura’s first Schalke goal came after a late change of mind

Defender Ko Itakura put the icing on the cake with his late goal in Schalke’s 4-1 home win over 1. FC Nürnberg last Friday. After netting his first goal for the club, the Japan international spoke to schalke04.de about that special moment, his defensive colleagues and his performances so far in Royal Blue.

Ko Itakura

Ko, you scored your first S04 goal against Nürnberg, and what a great one it was too! What was going through your head when you ran down the left with the ball?
I started dribbling with it in the 94th minute. I originally was going to head for the corner flag to run down the clock. However, once I played the first pass to Flo and got it back, I thought I could go towards goal. Marvin was then in a good position for a one-two and then I just pulled the trigger.

Would you have still gone forward like that if we were only one goal ahead?
Yes. I knew that there was a lot of cover back with Thomas, Marcin, Malick and Victor there. They would have defended an attack very well.

You’ve scored six goals so far in your professional career. Was the one against Nürnberg your best?
Almost definitely!

You play in the centre of the back-three, which is an extremely important role. How much does the trust placed in you by the coaching team mean to you?
The central position is always important, though I don’t think about that. The only thing that matters for me is giving 100% on the pitch to help the team win the game.

We know our strengths, help each other out and speak a lot on the pitch.

Ko Itakura

How is it with Malick Thiaw to the right of you and Marcin Kaminski to the left?
We’ve now played 15 competitive games alongside each other. The communication is getting better all the time between us. We know our strengths, help each other out and speak a lot on the pitch.

During the game against Ingolstadt in October you were singled out for applause by the fans for the first time after your slide tackles. How did that feel?
It was simply amazing, also because more than 25,000 fans were allowed in the stadium too. I felt really welcome here.

The team put together some winning streaks during the first half of the season, but also endured a little bad run.
We didn’t play to the best of our ability in most of the games that we lost or only drew. That will happen over the course of a season though. Nevertheless, it’s important to continue to be confident. We know that we can win every match, but it’s normal that that won’t always happen.

Next up is a game against HSV, who won 3-0 at the weekend. What can we expect from this match?
It’s a really important game and it will definitely be a difficult one. We have to continue doing what we’ve been doing and go into this match with confidence. We will fight for the three points once again.

I’ve got the feeling that I can be even better and help the team even more.

Ko Itakura

And how happy are you with your own performances?
I’ve got the feeling that I can be even better and help the team even more.

You’ll have a little break after the Hamburg game. What do your plans look like before the training camp begins in Belek?
I would have loved to fly back to Japan to see my family as I’ve not seen them for six months now, however that won’t be possible due to Corona. I will stay here and maybe visit one or two cities in Europe instead.

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