When Southampton walk out at Wembley on Sunday to face Man United, defender Maya Yoshida will be thinking about the only other time he played there – when Japan were thumped 3-1 in the Olympic Games.
Yoshida’s side had reached the semi-finals of the London Games in 2012 but the day ended unhappily with a convincing defeat to Mexico.
He recalled: “I’d like to win this time and get some happy memories of Wembley. Obviously, I didn’t know about Wembley when I was growing up, because I’m Japanese. But since I played in the Olympics and came to England, I’ve started to understand English football culture. Now I understand how important and valuable Wembley is.”
Southampton haven’t reached a major final since losing 1-0 to Arsenal in the FA Cup in 2003, and their only previous League Cup final was in 1979, when they were beaten 3-2 by Nottingham Forest.
So centre-half Maya Yoshida is understandably delighted at reaching Wembley. In an exclusive video interview, Yoshida told kicca.com: “I’m buzzing about this. Playing against Manchester United will be great, and Wembley is one of the most traditional stadiums in the world. I want to be part of the history of the club.”
Yoshida believes that reaching the final is proof of how well Southampton have progressed in recent years. He said: “We’ve done very well in the Premier League for the last three or four years. To get a cup? That would be proof of our great improvement, so I want to help achieve that.”
Although Manchester United will be favourites, Southampton have yet to concede any goals in their run to the final after overcoming Crystal Palace, Sunderland, Arsenal and Liverpool.
Yoshida said: “Recently, we’ve not been playing so well in the Premier League, but the cup is different because it’s just one game. There’s a massive passion for this game. It’s really difficult for both sides and in football anything can happen.”
See our video above for the full interview, in which Yoshida tells of his preparation for Wembley, his pre-match superstitions and how he plans to celebrate if Southampton win.