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‘Duracell bunny’ Haraguchi eager to break Union duck

Berlin (AFP) – Dubbed ‘Duracell bunny’ for his seemingly tireless energy, Genki Haraguchi is a shoe-in for Union Berlin this season, but the Japan midfielder is desperate to break his duck for the Bundesliga club.   

“I want to score,” the 30-year-old attacking midfielder told reporters having yet to hit the net in 19 games since his off-season transfer from second-tier Hanover.

Haraguchi’s silky passing has helped Union’s strikers Max Kruse and Taiwo Awoniyi bag 16 goals between them this season, but he wants to get on the scoresheet.

“I want to make the difference in games. I am generally happy with my form this season, but I want to score goals,” he said.

It seems to be just a matter of time.

The Japan veteran showed his finishing prowess at Hanover last season by having a hand in 16 goals — scoring nine and creating seven more — which earned him a free transfer to Union.

“He’s one of the winners of the season so far,” Union’s CEO Oliver Ruhnert told Kicker.

“He’s a bit like the Duracell bunny — he always gives his all.”

Haraguchi came close to scoring against former club Hertha Berlin in Saturday’s 2-0 derby win which saw Union climb to fifth in Germany’s top flight.

He made key contributions by creating goals in wins over Moenchengladbach and Wolfsburg, a home defeat to Bayern Munich and draw with Cologne.

He’d love to hit the net Thursday at Maccabi Haifa in the Europa Conference League, where Union need another win, having beaten the Israeli champions 3-0 in Berlin, to climb off the bottom of their group.

“It’s a big goal for us to reach the next round, but we have to win the last two games,” said Haraguchi.

– Midfield switch –

After failing to make an impact in four years at Hertha, Haraguchi was loaned to Fortuna Duesseldorf, who he helped win promotion in 2018 before being sold to Hanover.

There he rebooted his career by switching from the wing to attacking midfield, which yielded 15 goals and 16 assists in the last three full seasons.

“I was a typical winger, but now I play more in the middle, it suits me better,” he said.

“Being on the wing is a lot of one-on-one, but playing in the middle means you have to be more flexible. That is one of my strengths.”

Haraguchi’s boundless energy has been fully tested this season on international duty with Japan.

In mid-November, he flew from Germany to play just four minutes — two in each game — in wins over Oman and Vietnam to leave Japan second in their World Cup qualifying group.

That came after flying halfway around the world to be on the bench for October’s 2-1 win over Australia in Saitama after playing half an hour of a 2-1 defeat away to Saudi Arabia.

“I don’t like flying, but I am used to it. I have no idea how many kilometres I have flown this year,” said Haraguchi.

“It’s just football, I am always proud to play for Japan.”

Haraguchi scored in Japan’s last-gasp 3-2 defeat to Belgium in the last 16 of the 2018 World Cup and is eager for another chance at next year’s finals in Qatar. 

“We’re now in second place (four points behind Saudi Arabia), so have a chance of going to the World Cup.”

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