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Celtic: Daizen Maeda a “livewire” at the World Cup

It proved a day of mixed fortunes for Celtic at the World Cup on Monday, with two of Ange Postecoglou’s men having gone head-to-head as Japan took on 2018 finalists Croatia in an intriguing round of 16 tie.

As it proved, it was full-back Josip Juranovic who came out on top on the day as the European outfit progressed to the last eight, with the 27-year-old ace – who has been heavily linked with an exit from Glasgow in January – helping his side to secure a narrow victory via the dreaded penalty shootout.

The former Legia Warsaw man was left to console club colleague Daizen Maeda at the final whistle as the latter man saw his nation crash out following what had been an impressive run in Qatar, with Hajime Moriyasu’s side having notably overcome both Germany and Spain in the group stage.

On a night of frustration for the four-time Asian Cup winners, as they were left to rue a string of tame spot-kick attempts, the aforementioned Maeda certainly did his reputation no harm following what was a lively outing on the night.

The 25-year-old had been something of a surprise pick in the squad initially ahead of Parkhead teammate Kyogo Furuhashi – with Reo Hatate also a notable omission – although the former J-League star justified that selection with his display yesterday.

While the Osaka-born speedster has at times been scrutinised for his profligacy at club level after scoring just four goals this season for the Old Firm outfit and notably missing three big chances in the Scottish champions’ Champions League run, the 12-cap menace somewhat quashed the doubters after netting against Luka Modric and co.

The diminutive marksman put his side ahead just before the break with a composed, close-range finish on his weaker foot, with that strike having seemingly been a welcome reward for the £18k-per-week machine’s relentless all-round display through the middle.

That 64-minute outing saw the 5 foot 8 sensation prove particularly clinical as he scored with what was his only shot on target from one of only 15 touches, while also showcasing his breathtaking defensive prowess after winning 100% of his ground duels.

That performance unsurprisingly saw Maeda record an impressive 7.3 match rating, as per Sofascore, with that rating only bettered by midfielder Wataru Endo among his teammates.

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The Bhoys’ forward was also the subject of notable praise from pundit Rio Ferdinand, with the former England international stating:

“He’s been an absolute livewire. I think it’s only his second international goal but he’s looked like a man possessed up there.

“You wouldn’t want to play against him, he’s constantly running around and making it difficult for you, with and without the ball he is an absolute nuisance.

“That’s the catalyst for the others in his team to come high and press high. His movement has been fantastic, some top-drawer moves. What I like about him is he is always on the move, especially when he drifts behind centre-halves.”

The pacy ‘workhouse‘ – as described by 90min’s Michael Graham in his post-match player ratings – will likely be hoping to maintain this momentum when club action resumes later this month, with it no doubt a real positive as far as Postecoglou is concerned.