Brazil and France may be former World Cup winners, but Japan’s soccer pedigree is not a class below them, according to coach Alberto Zaccheroni and playmaker Keisuke Honda. The Blue Samurai, who will face France at a friendly game on October 12 at the Stade de France in Paris and then Brazil in Wroclaw, Poland on October 16, will definitely come out fighting in both matches.
Honda, who plays for Russian club CSKA Moscow, is fresh off a 2-0 victory over rivals Spartak Moscow where he scored one goal and set up the other. The 26 year old midfielder, who was considered Japan’s World Cup hero, says that he has already mentally mapped out a strategy to beat both teams but refuses to talk about the details. “I want to wait until after the games to ask how everyone felt about our performance”, he adds.
Zaccheroni took over the team after the 2010 World Cup where the Blue Samurai reached the final 16. He led them to a record 4th Asian Cup in 2011 and believes that they have exceeded France (ranked 13) and Brazil (with their lowest ranking ever at 14th) in terms of growth rate in recent years. Japan is currently ranked 23 in the FIFA world rankings and is the highest ranked Asian country. In the ongoing World Cup qualifiers, they are leading Asian Group B with 10 points and are aiming for a fifth straight World Cup finals.
For the two friendlies, he has called up 13 Europe-based players, including Manchester United’s new sensation Shinji Kagawa, Inter Milan defender Yuto Nagatomo, Southampton defender Maya Yoshida and winger Ryo Miyaichi, currently on loan to Wigan from Arsenal.[ via New Straits Times ]