Takefusa Kubo has called Wednesday's meeting with Spain the 'biggest game of his career'

Japan’s Takefusa Kubo was a team-mate of Ansu Fati and Eric Garcia as a wonderkid at Barcelona – now the 21-year-old is gearing up for the ‘biggest game of his life’ against Spain as his side aim to reach the World Cup last 16

Take Kubo has called Wednesday’s meeting with Spain the biggest game of his career as he prepares to take on former Barcelona youth team-mates Eric Garcia and Ansu Fati.

The 21-year-old moved to Spain when he was 10 years old. He went on to form a prolific partnership with Ansu Fati in Barcelona’s Under-12s, scoring 76 goals in one season as Fati scored 56.

The partnership was broken up in 2015 when FIFA punished Barcelona for breaking rules on the transfers of under-age players and Kubo had to return to Japan.

Takefusa Kubo has called Wednesday's meeting with Spain the 'biggest game of his career'

Takefusa Kubo has called Wednesday’s meeting with Spain the ‘biggest game of his career’

Kubo was a team-mate of Spain's Ansu Fati (left) while in Barcelona's youth system (pictured)

Kubo was a team-mate of Spain’s Ansu Fati (left) while in Barcelona’s youth system (pictured)

The 21-year-old, now at Real Sociedad, told El Mundo Deportivo: ‘It’s the most important game of my life; hopefully I can get the goal that wins it for us.’

Kubo started Japan’s shock win over Germany and should face Spain after watching Japan’s defeat to Costa Rica from the bench.

Fati’s place in the Spain starting line-up is a little more up in the air. The 19-year-old was the last player Spain coach Luis Enrique made up his mind about when he picked his squad for Qatar.

He had only started three games for Barcelona all season after missing the entirety of last season with a meniscus injury but the Spain coach ignored advice about taking a player who was not fully fit.

‘Stop talking about his injury,’ said Luis Enrique before the World Cup. ‘He is just like any other player, he gets injured and he recovers.’ Fati’s father Bori said: ‘Physically he is fine, he just needs playing time.’

Fati could be in contention to face off against Kubo in their World Cup clash on Wednesday

Fati could be in contention to face off against Kubo in their World Cup clash on Wednesday

Fati and Kubo were precociously talented young attackers at Barca and now play in LaLiga

Fati and Kubo were precociously talented young attackers at Barca and now play in LaLiga

But so far he is yet to make what will be his World Cup debut. Luis Enrique took seven forwards to Qatar and so far Fati has not even warmed up. 

There are suggestions that he does not have the sharpness of some of his rivals but the Spain camp deny that and he could get minutes against Japan and his pal Kubo.

Spain defender Eric Garcia was also part of the youth team in which Kubo and Fati shone, and like the Barça striker he expects to get some involvement against Japan.

Before the tournament Luis Enrique identified this game as a potential slip-up and those fears were reinforced when Japan beat Germany in their opening game.

Spanish football coach Ricardo Rodriguez, who has won more trophies than any other foreign manager in the J-League during successful spells at Urawa Red Diamonds and Tokushima Vortis, agrees with the caution.

Kubo's Japan will definitely move into the last 16 if they beat La Roja - and might do if they draw

Kubo’s Japan will definitely move into the last 16 if they beat La Roja – and might do if they draw

‘Opening up Japan’s defence will be a challenge for Spain,’ says Rodriguez, who left Urawa Red Diamonds recently after guiding them to a Super Cup and an Emperor’s Cup in Japan.

‘As we saw against Germany with three central defenders they are very solid. Japan will look to press high and make Spain are uncomfortable; they have a lot of ability to do that as we’ve seen so far. 

‘They have very dangerous players, they fight for every ball, and they are good from set-pieces.’

Kubo’s energy will key in achieving that high press and helping Japan progress. Spain could advance without winning if Costa Rica beat Germany. 

A draw will see both go through – pleasing all three former Barça youth teammates.

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