Kaoru Mitoma (三笘 薫, Mitoma Kaoru, born 20 May 1997) is a Japanese professional footballer known for his dribbling skills. He mainly plays as a wide midfielder, but can also be deployed as a left winger or attacking midfielder. He plays for the Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albion and the Japan national team.[5][6]

Kaoru Mitoma
三笘 薫
Mitoma playing for Brighton & Hove Albion in 2022
Personal information
Full name Kaoru Mitoma[1]
Date of birth (1997-05-20) 20 May 1997 (age 27)[2]
Place of birth Hita, Ōita, Japan[3]
Height 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)[4]
Position(s) Left winger, wide midfielder, attacking midfielder
Team information
Current team
Brighton & Hove Albion
Number 22
Youth career
2007–2015 Kawasaki Frontale
College career
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2016–2019 University of Tsukuba
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2018–2021 Kawasaki Frontale 50 (21)
2021– Brighton & Hove Albion 52 (10)
2021–2022Union SG (loan) 27 (7)
International career
2018 Japan U21 3 (1)
2017–2021 Japan U23 9 (4)
2021– Japan 20 (7)
Medal record
Representing  Japan
Asian Games
Silver medal – second place 2018 Jakarta–Palembang Team
*Club domestic league appearances and goals, correct as of 23:41, 18 February 2024 (UTC)
‡ National team caps and goals, correct as of 13:51, 3 February 2024 (UTC)

Club career

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Early years

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Born in Hita, Ōita, Mitoma grew up in Miyamae-ku in the city of Kawasaki and joined the Kawasaki Frontale academy at the U10 level. Offered a promotion from the U-18s to the senior team coached by Yahiro Kazama, he instead chose the University of Tsukuba, a Japanese university football powerhouse who had recently produced Frontale stalwarts such as Shogo Taniguchi and Shintaro Kurumaya. Mitoma professed to feeling unprepared to enter professional football at age 18, citing the struggles of fellow Kawasaki academy products Ko Itakura and Koji Miyoshi to win regular playing time with the senior squad.[7][8] He wrote his university thesis on dribbling.[9]

During his time at Tsukuba, Mitoma was selected to represent Japan at the 2017 and 2019 Universiade tournaments, as well as the 2018 Asian Games and the 2019 Toulon Tournament with the under-23 national team. Playing in the Kanto University Soccer League with Tsukuba, he was named to the all-league XI in his final three seasons while majoring in physical education. In addition, Tsukuba appeared in the 2016 and 2017 Emperor's Cup tournaments making an upstart run to the round of 16 in the latter edition, upsetting J.League clubs YSCC Yokohama, Vegalta Sendai (against whom Mitoma scored a brace), and Avispa Fukuoka along the way. While enrolled in college, Mitoma also occasionally joined Frontale's senior team for training sessions as a Special Designated Player starting in his sophomore year, appearing in a single J.League Cup match in 2019.[8]

Kawasaki Frontale

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In July 2018, Mitoma agreed on a professional contract with Kawasaki Frontale, and would become a member of the team in 2020.[10] He made his debut on the opening matchday of the 2020 J1 League and quickly established himself after the league resumed following the COVID-19 outbreak, becoming the first rookie to reach double digits in goals in the first division since Yoshinori Muto.[8] On 1 January 2021, he scored match winning goal in a 1–0 victory over Gamba Osaka in the final of the 2020 Emperor's Cup.[11]

Brighton & Hove Albion

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2021–22: Loan to Belgium

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On 10 August 2021, Mitoma joined Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion on a four-year deal, joining Union SG on loan for the first year.[12] He scored his first goal for Union SG on 16 October, where he scored a hat-trick in a 4–2 home victory over Seraing.[13]

2022–23: Breakout season

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On 13 August 2022, Mitoma made his Premier League debut for Brighton, coming on as a 75th-minute substitute for Leandro Trossard in a 0–0 draw with Newcastle United at the Falmer Stadium.[14] He made his first start for Albion on 24 August, playing 67 minutes of the 3–0 away win over League One side Forest Green Rovers in the EFL Cup second round.[15] He made his first Premier League start on 29 October, setting up Leandro Trossard's fifth-minute opener in the eventual 4–1 home win over Chelsea.[16] A week later, he scored his first goal for the Seagulls, heading them level from Adam Lallana's cross in the eventual 3–2 away win over Wolverhampton Wanderers. Mitoma also helped Brighton in both other goals with his run into the box creating Pascal Groß's 83rd-minute winner.[17] Mitoma scored again in Brighton's next match four days later, putting Albion in front in the eventual 3–1 away win over Arsenal in the EFL Cup third round.[18] He scored his first home goal on 31 December, giving Brighton a lifeline in the eventual 4–2 home loss against Arsenal. He later had a goal ruled out for offside which would have cut the Gunners' lead to one.[19]

On 29 January 2023, Mitoma's 91st-minute winner at home in the fourth round of the FA Cup saw Brighton defeat the cup holders Liverpool 2–1.[20][21] On 4 February, he scored the late winning goal in a 1–0 victory over AFC Bournemouth.[22] On 1 April, he scored his seventh league goal of the season in a 3–3 draw with Brentford to surpass Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki for the most goals scored in a single English top-flight season by a Japanese player.[23]

2023–24: Contract extension and season-ending injury

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On 19 August 2023, Mitoma opened his season's scoring account with a sensational solo goal in Brighton's second match of the 2023–24 campaign, also setting up a Pervis Estupiñán goal in the 4–1 away league win against Wolverhampton Wanderers.[24] Later, this goal brought him the Goal of the Month award for August, making Mitoma the first ever Japanese player to win a Premier League monthly award.[25] On 20 October 2023, Mitoma signed a new four-year deal with Brighton & Hove Albion up to 2027.[26] On 27 February 2024, it was announced that Mitoma would miss the rest of the 2023–24 season due to a back injury.[27]

International career

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After being capped at youth level, Mitoma was called up to the Japan senior squad for the first time in November 2021 for 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Oman.[28] He made his debut on 16 November, coming on as a substitute in a 1–0 away win over Oman.[29]

On 24 March 2022, Mitoma scored his first two international goals in a 2–0 World Cup qualification win against Australia. Coming from the bench on 86th minute, the winger opened the score three minutes later. He scored another during added time. This win confirmed Japan's qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.[30] Mitoma's double offered him his First "A" international titularisation at the following game, five days later, against Vietnam.[clarification needed][citation needed]

On 1 November, Mitoma was named in Japan's 26-man squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.[31] In the last group game which came against Spain on 1 December, he assisted Ao Tanaka's winner that saw Japan qualify to the round of 16 as group winners. The goal came with controversy, originally being ruled out for the ball going out of play. Upon VAR review, the goal was awarded with the justification that the curvature of the ball was hanging over the chalk.[32]

Personal life

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Mitoma is the childhood friend of fellow Japan international and former Kawasaki Frontale teammate Ao Tanaka, who currently plays for 2. Bundesliga club Fortuna Düsseldorf. Both went to Saginuma Elementary School in Kawasaki, Kanagawa, and promised to make Japan proud as professional footballers.[33]

Career statistics

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Club

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As of match played 18 February 2024[34][35]
Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League National cup[a] League cup[b] Continental Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
University of Tsukuba 2016 1 0 1 0
2017 4 2 4 2
Total 5 2 5 2
Kawasaki Frontale 2019 J1 League 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0
2020 J1 League 30 13 2 2 5 3 37 18
2021 J1 League 20 8 0 0 0 0 3[c] 2 1[d] 2 24 12
Total 50 21 2 2 6 3 3 2 1 2 62 30
Union SG (loan) 2021–22 Belgian Pro League 27 7 2 1 0 0 29 8
Brighton & Hove Albion 2022–23[36] Premier League 33 7 5 2 3 1 41 10
2023–24[37] Premier League 19 3 0 0 1 0 6[e] 0 26 3
Total 52 10 5 2 4 1 6 0 0 0 67 13
Career total 129 38 14 7 10 4 9 2 1 2 163 53
  1. ^ Includes Emperor's Cup, FA Cup and Belgian Cup
  2. ^ Includes J.League Cup and EFL Cup
  3. ^ Appearances in AFC Champions League
  4. ^ Appearance in Japanese Super Cup
  5. ^ Appearances in UEFA Europa League

International

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As of match played 3 February 2024[38]
Appearances and goals by national team and year
National team Year Apps Goals
Japan 2021 1 0
2022 12 5
2023 5 2
2024 2 0
Total 20 7
As of match played 3 February 2024[38]
Scores and results list Japan's goal tally first, score column indicates score after each Mitoma goal.
List of international goals scored by Kaoru Mitoma
No. Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 24 March 2022 Stadium Australia, Sydney, Australia   Australia 1–0 2–0 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification
2 2–0
3 2 June 2022 Sapporo Dome, Sapporo, Japan   Paraguay 3–1 4–1 2022 Kirin Challenge Cup
4 10 June 2022 Noevir Stadium Kobe, Kobe, Japan   Ghana 2–1 4–1 2022 Kirin Cup
5 23 September 2022 Merkur Spiel-Arena, Düsseldorf, Germany   United States 2–0 2–0 2022 Kirin Challenge Cup
6 28 March 2023 Yodoko Sakura Stadium, Osaka, Japan   Colombia 1–0 1–2 2023 Kirin Challenge Cup
7 20 June 2023 Suita City Football Stadium, Suita, Japan   Peru 2–0 4–1 2023 Kirin Challenge Cup

Honours

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Kawasaki Frontale

Individual

References

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  1. ^ "2022/23 Premier League squad lists". Premier League. 16 September 2022. Archived from the original on 14 September 2022. Retrieved 18 September 2022.
  2. ^ "FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 – Squad list: Japan (JPN)" (PDF). FIFA. 15 November 2022. p. 16. Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 November 2022. Retrieved 15 November 2022.
  3. ^ "三笘薫さん(サッカー)インタビュー". Players Japan. 25 December 2018. Archived from the original on 3 October 2020. Retrieved 20 October 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  4. ^ "Kaoru Mitoma: Overview". Premier League. Archived from the original on 15 July 2022. Retrieved 11 August 2022.
  5. ^ "'Mitoma is one of the best wingers in the world'". Brighton & Hove Albion F.C. Retrieved 13 November 2023.
  6. ^ "Kaoru Mitoma at Brighton: From the university dribbling thesis to brilliance in Belgium and finishing like Thierry Henry". Sky Sports. Retrieved 13 November 2023.
  7. ^ Ando, Takahito (28 May 2018). "フロンターレ昇格を蹴って進学。筑波大・三笘薫、人生の選択について。". Sports Graphic Number (in Portuguese). Bungeishunjū. Archived from the original on 19 October 2020. Retrieved 20 October 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d Bontempo, Tiago (5 September 2020). "Mitoma, a sensação da J.League que só virou profissional aos 22 anos para 'garantir seu futuro' na faculdade". Globo Esporte (in Portuguese). Grupo Globo. Archived from the original on 16 October 2020. Retrieved 14 October 2020.
  9. ^ "Kaoru Mitoma: How a degree in dribbling shaped Brighton's breakout star". thetimes.co.uk (Archived). Archived from the original on 12 January 2023. Retrieved 8 September 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  10. ^ "三笘薫選手加入内定のお知らせ". Kawasaki Frontale. 13 July 2018. Archived from the original on 17 August 2021. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  11. ^ "川崎フロンターレが天皇杯初優勝 三笘薫決勝弾でガンバ大阪下し二冠達成". Football Channel. 1 January 2021. Retrieved 3 November 2023.
  12. ^ "Mitoma signs for Albion". Brighton & Hove Albion F.C. 10 August 2021. Archived from the original on 5 November 2021. Retrieved 10 August 2021.
  13. ^ "Royale Union Saint-Gilloise Union SG – RFC Seraing: 4–2". rusg.brussels. 16 October 2021. Archived from the original on 28 September 2022. Retrieved 16 October 2021.
  14. ^ "Brighton and Hove Albion – Newcastle United: 0–0". brightonandhovealbion.com. 13 August 2022. Archived from the original on 14 August 2022. Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  15. ^ "Forest Green 0–3 Brighton: Albion to face Arsenal in third round". BBC Sport. 24 August 2022. Archived from the original on 28 August 2022. Retrieved 2 September 2022.
  16. ^ "Brighton & Hove Albion 4–1 Chelsea: Seagulls spoil former boss Graham Potter's Amex Stadium". BBC Sport. 29 October 2022. Archived from the original on 10 November 2022. Retrieved 29 October 2022.
  17. ^ "Wolves 2–3 Brighton: Pascal Gross secures late victory for visitors". BBC Sport. 5 November 2022. Archived from the original on 13 December 2022. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  18. ^ "Carabao Cup: Arsenal 1-3 Brighton – Seagulls move into last 16 with win at Emirates Stadium". BBC Sport. 9 November 2022. Archived from the original on 23 November 2022. Retrieved 10 November 2022.
  19. ^ "Brave Albion beaten by the leaders". Brighton & Hove Albion. 31 December 2022. Archived from the original on 4 January 2023. Retrieved 31 December 2022.
  20. ^ Hytner, David (29 January 2023). "Mitoma's magical winner for Brighton delivers knockout blow to Liverpool". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 29 January 2023. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  21. ^ Rose, Gary (29 January 2023). "Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 Liverpool: Kaoru Mitoma injury-time goal sends FA Cup holders out". BBC Sport. Archived from the original on 29 January 2023. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  22. ^ "Brighton strike late to beat Bournemouth". BBC Sport. Archived from the original on 4 February 2023. Retrieved 5 February 2023.
  23. ^ "Mitoma nets Japanese-high seventh goal in Premier League season". Japan Times. 2 April 2023. Archived from the original on 3 April 2023. Retrieved 3 April 2023.
  24. ^ "Albion March to top of the table". Brighton & Hove Albion. 19 August 2023. Archived from the original on 19 August 2023. Retrieved 19 August 2023.
  25. ^ a b "Mitoma makes history with Budweiser Goal of the Month award". Premier League. 15 September 2023. Archived from the original on 15 September 2023. Retrieved 15 September 2023.
  26. ^ Naylor, Andy (20 October 2023). "Kaoru Mitoma signs new four-year Brighton contract". The Athletic. Retrieved 20 October 2023.
  27. ^ "Kaoru Mitoma injury: Brighton winger set to miss rest of season with back problem". BBC Sport. 27 February 2024. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  28. ^ "Albion's players in World Cup qualifying action". Brighton & Hove Albion. 10 November 2021. Archived from the original on 22 November 2021. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  29. ^ "'Bring him back' – Brighton fans send transfer message after loanee stars on international duty". SussexLive. 17 November 2021. Archived from the original on 22 November 2021. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  30. ^ "Japan secure dramatic win over Australia to qualify for World Cup". BBC Sport. 24 March 2022. Archived from the original on 24 March 2022. Retrieved 24 March 2022.
  31. ^ "Kaoru Mitoma set to realize World Cup dream after injury scare". The Japan Times. 5 November 2022. Archived from the original on 24 November 2022. Retrieved 10 November 2022.
  32. ^ "World Cup 2022: Japan 2-1 Spain: Japan and Spain both through on dramatic night". BBC Sport. 1 December 2022. Archived from the original on 1 December 2022. Retrieved 1 December 2022.
  33. ^ "Japan team-mates went to school together and made World Cup promise in year book". www.mirror.co.uk. Mirror UK. 5 December 2022. Archived from the original on 16 September 2023. Retrieved 12 September 2023.
  34. ^ Kaoru Mitoma at Soccerway. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  35. ^ Kaoru Mitoma - Statistics Archived 11 June 2021 at the Wayback Machine (in Japanese)
  36. ^ "Games played by Kaoru Mitoma in 2022/2023". Soccerbase. Centurycomm. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  37. ^ "Games played by Kaoru Mitoma in 2023/2024". Soccerbase. Centurycomm. Retrieved 12 August 2023.
  38. ^ a b Kaoru Mitoma at National-Football-Teams.com
  39. ^ a b Japan Pro-Footballers Association awards
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