Takefusa Kubo is ready to take Olympics by storm after leading Japan to opening victory

Still only 20, Takefusa Kubo is emerging as a pivotal figure to Japan's gold medal hopes at the Olympic Games men's football tournament. Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

When a player has come through Barcelona's famed La Masia academy and then gets signed by Real Madrid as an 18-year-old, it is clear there is some talent there.

Yet, there is sentiment in some quarters that the rising star that is Takefusa Kubo has fizzled out slightly in recent times.

After his match-winning contribution that led hosts Japan to a 1-0 victory over South Africa in the Group A opener of the Olympic Games men's football tournament on Thursday, the next week or so could just be the perfect platform for Kubo to prove he is not going away anytime soon.

If anyone needed a reminder of his raw talent, he only needed four touches to do so.

The first one to effortlessly bring a lofted pass under control just inside the penalty box, and the second to steady.

With his third, and a slight drop of the shoulder, Kubo created just the yard of space he needed between him and his marker to then send the ball arrowing in off the post with his fourth touch.

At a time when the Samurai Blue were struggling to break down a stubborn South African outfit, Kubo's pivotal moment highlighted precisely why he needs to be treated with patience.

His ability to singlehandedly produce a moment of magic is one that will be the difference in converting draws into victories, like he did on Thursday. And it is one that not every player possesses.

While it might seem his name has been mentioned for awhile now, it is worth remembering that Kubo is still only 20 and nowhere near the finished article.

It is for that exact reason that Real have opted to send him out on loan in the past two seasons. First to Mallorca and then to Villarreal, where having being largely limited to substitute appearances, he was shifted on to fellow La Liga outfit Getafe.

As Kubo continues his development, he will thrive and improve with more responsibility being placed on his young shoulders.

That has yet to happen at club level, even in the half-season with FC Tokyo in 2019 where he really rose to prominence and convinced Real to bring him to the Bernabeu.

Nonetheless, this opportunity will be handed to him at the Olympics.

Primarily by virtue because, with the tournament being an under-24 competition with the exception of three overage players, the playing field is far more level compared at full senior club level.

Despite being the fourth-youngest member of the Japan squad, Kubo is also the fifth most-experienced with 11 full caps - only behind the trio of overaged players in Maya Yoshida, Hiroki Sakai and Wataru Endo, and fellow Europe-based starlet Ritsu Doan, who is two years his senior.

But also because there is just no other player among the Samurai Blue ranks with the ability to produce that match-winning moment like he did on Thursday.

For a young player who everyone seems to be waiting on to take the next step, Kubo could just be about to use the next week -- with games against Mexico and France -- to take the Olympics by storm.

And if he does that, and leads Japan into the knockout round and onwards in their quest for the gold medal, it will only give him even more time to shine under the spotlight.