Final Goal from Spain, Ao Tanaka’s “Secret Weapon” Brought to Germany | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Final Goal from Spain, Ao Tanaka’s “Secret Weapon” Brought to Germany

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Ao Tanaka (far right, photo: AFLO) explodes with joy after scoring the final goal.

Japan’s national soccer team faced off against the powerful Spain national team in the third round of the World Cup on January 1 (local time), and came away with a 2-1 victory to advance to the final tournament as the top-ranked team in Group E.

After trailing 1-0 in the first half, Ritsu Doan scored a goal in the third minute of the second half to tie the game, and midfielder Ao Tanaka pushed the ball home in the sixth minute to give Japan the lead for good.

I believed in myself. I had been imagining in my mind for a long time that I would score at the World Cup. I am glad I was able to do it. After the win over Germany and the loss to Costa Rica, “There was an atmosphere in the air that we might not make it (to the final tournament), but we believed in ourselves, and we had a lot of people cheering for us at 4:00 in the morning in Japan. I am glad we were able to get a solid win. I thought it was inevitable that we conceded a goal in the first half, but we were able to turn the game around after Ritsu’s (Doan) shot, and I think we were able to do it because we had the power to do so.

Tanaka, who scored the final goal, and Misumi, who crossed the ball to Tanaka just short of the goal line, were supported by a “secret weapon. It was the high-altitude training studio “Hiarti. More than 200 professional soccer players, including Tanaka and the other eight Japanese national team players selected for Moriyasu Japan, as well as J-League players, use this facility. Daisuke Naga, owner of the Center Kita store in Yokohama, and Koichi Shinden, the store’s founder, revealed the following.

Daisuke Naga, owner of the Center Kita store in Yokohama, and Koichi Shinden, the company’s founder, explain, “Compared to other professional soccer players, players like Mitate and Ito (who started against Germany and Spain) have a much faster top sprinting speed. Their top speed is competitive in the world, so we train them to keep that speed up for 90 minutes.

In training before the season starts, we increase their physical abilities at once. However, the season lasts nearly 10 months, so the effects of training slowly diminish. For this reason, Tanaka and Misato bring machines that create a hypoxic environment to Germany and England, respectively, and continue “high-altitude” training during the season. In-season training works to keep the effects in check. In a sense, it could be called ‘legal doping.

What kind of place is “high-altitude” training? At first glance, it looks like a normal gym, located near a train station. However, the training room is located at an altitude of 2,500 meters, with the same oxygen concentration as the fifth station of Mt. Fuji. It is said that while going to a high altitude increases cardiopulmonary function due to the increase in red blood cells, it also decreases muscle strength due to the lack of strenuous exercise. The concept was that if muscular strength would deteriorate, then training on the ground and training at high altitude could be done in parallel, and the “Hiarti” studio was the first of its kind in Japan.

When Tanaka and Misumi trained together on their return to Japan this summer during the club’s off season, they brought special masks and aerobikes to their respective training bases so that they could maintain the same environment as in the “Hiarti” studio, so that the effects of their training would not be transitory. They brought their own masks and aerobics to their respective training locations to maintain the same environment as the “high-altitude” training.

Masks and training equipment that create the same high-altitude training environment as the “high-altitude” training. Rei Kawamura (far right), a member of Japan’s blind soccer team that competed in the Tokyo Paralympics last summer, trains under the guidance of Koichi Nitta (center) (photo courtesy of HIARTI).

In addition to Tanaka and Mitake, the physical and mental benefits were evident in Junya Ito, who started in Japan’s victories against Germany and Spain. Ito first visited Japan in the summer of 2021, when he was playing for Genk in the Belgian First Division. It was off duty and he was returning to Japan. Ito’s classmates from Kanagawa University were “Hiarti” users, and they recommended it to him.

When Ito first arrived, he had been drinking heavily the day before and wasn’t in very good condition (laughs). (Laughs.) I was just like, ‘My friend invited me, so I’m here,’ but the next day, Ito contacted me and said, ‘I want to play seriously. From there, until I returned to Belgium, I made time to train at “HIALCH” as much as I could.

Ito’s first season at HyArci was an awakening for him, and since the summer of 2021 he has been selected for Japan’s national team, scoring goals in four consecutive games in the final Asian qualifying rounds for the World Cup, making him an indispensable player for the national team.

From left, Kaoru Mitoma, owner Daisuke Naga, and Ao Tanaka (courtesy of Mr. Naga) training at Hiarti’s Center North branch.

After finishing his season with Genk in May 2022, Ito reappeared in the summer just in time to move to Stade Reims in the French First Division. Ito told Nitta that he was ready for the move, saying, “I want to train off the field because the level will definitely increase after the transfer.

He said, “I’ve heard that foreign clubs have teams that train at a higher intensity and separate physical levels from the beginning of the new season. If I can improve my condition during the off-season and join the team, I can train with a group with a higher physical level from the beginning. This naturally brings them closer to a regular position.

Ito and Nitta had one goal in mind as they trained for the Winter World Cup: to get a regular role in their new home, and then play at the World Cup.

We talked about eliminating the so-called “Junya time” that disappears during games. Being able to go faster than others means consuming batteries faster than others, so you tend to get tired easily. What we talked about with Ito was to increase the number of sprints throughout the 90 minutes. To do so means recovering from fatigue at twice the speed of a person. If he recovers faster, he can increase the number of sprints without losing his speed, which is Ito’s weapon, even in the latter half of the match. Therefore, we focused on increasing the range (distance) of sprints within 7 seconds.

 Even for black athletes, who are known for their high physical ability, training is the only way to increase their recovery speed, but surprisingly few people in the soccer world focus on this aspect of training. The reality is that even professional soccer players are at the level of junior high school track and field athletes when it comes to running alone. In other words, there is a lot of room for growth in “running” training that is not being addressed.

The more you train your cardiopulmonary function and lactate tolerance, which is called the glycolytic system, the more you train, the more changes will occur. In fact, Eliud Kipchoge, the world record holder in the men’s marathon, broke the world record at the age of 37. I think Ito can still grow as well.

Ito, who has achieved results in the past year since he began attending the studio, has, above all, changed his mindset.

When I met him a year ago, he seemed a little flustered, but when I met him this summer, he was full of confidence. To be honest, Ito is neither serious nor stoic in his training, but I have the impression that he is more determined to play soccer than anyone else.

Ito returned to Japan with confidence, and during the summer off in 2022, he spent five days under Nitta’s tutelage. Ito, who returned to Japan in the summer of 2022, spent five days under Nitta’s tutelage during the summer off-season.

On the first day of training, I was so fatigued that I had to rest for more than an hour before I could move. We increase the intensity of training from the first day, but even so, by the fifth day, I recover so quickly that I can rest for 10 minutes and go home. The numbers clearly show that fatigue is reduced even though the training is obviously hard, and the athletes who use the program, not only Ito, but also other athletes, feel that they have really changed.

Tanaka, who scored the final goal, stated after the game against Spain.

We have a lot of really great players, no matter who is on the field, as was the case in today’s game. We won the final tournament by our own strength, and the next game will be the beginning of a new history. We will prepare well for the next game.

The men who have been fighting to stay out of sight, believing that they can make history by becoming the first team in history to reach the final eight, are now shining brightly on the pitch in Qatar.

Ito (left), who has given his all in training, and Nitta, who is checking the numbers next to him.

Ito training (courtesy of Nitta)

Inside the training room, which has the same hypoxic conditions as at high altitude. In front of the running machine, there is a TV on the left, a monitor with the altitude (2927m) in the center, and the heart rate of the person training is displayed on the far right.
The “Oxygen concentration” written below the altitude of 2891m indicates the oxygen concentration, which is 15%. Normal land is said to have an oxygen concentration of 21%.
Ito’s autographed uniform on display in the “Hiarti” (courtesy of Nitta).
  • Reporting by Noriyuki Okuyama Noriyuki Okuyama

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