As the 2014 World Cup draws near, the pressure on Japan’s National Men’s Football Team or the Samurai Blue begins to mount. But Keisuke Honda, who was part of the 23-man squad named to participate in the world’s biggest football competition, is taking it all in stride. In fact, the player who’s currently part of Italian club AC Milan is confident Japan will finish better than their 2010 campaign.
Aside from the overseas experience some members of the squad will bring to the table, veteran coach Alberto Zaccheroni is expected to make a difference in ensuring the team place higher this time around. Add that to what many consider an advantageous draw grouping Japan with Ivory Coast, Greece and Colombia, expectations from the Japanese public are at an all-time high. Honda, who moved earlier this year to Italy from Russian team CSKA Moscow, is among the favorites to make a difference in this year’s campaign. Fellow European player Shinji Kagawa, despite having limited playing time in his English club Manchester United, is also considered a key player in his World Cup debut. Honda, who was instrumental in the 1-1 draw via penalty against Australia that gave them a slot for the World Cup is confident with the squad Zaccheroni has put up. “We are definitely challengers. Other teams underestimate us and take us lightly but we won’t be intimidated,” said the 27-year old. Meanwhile, Kagawa also expressed his confidence and trust in his teammates. “You can face a lot of different conditions at the World Cup. Regardless of which players are available you have to play well as a team,” he said.
Other Europe-based players have also been named to the squad including Mainz forward Shinji Okazaki, who has been in stellar form the whole season in the Bundesliga. While exposure in Europe and other leagues will be an advantage for the Samurai Blue, injuries are also haunting the team as early as now. Captain Makoto Hasebe has had two operations on his right knee while right back Atsuto Uchida of Schalke has injured his thigh and had to say no to this year’s World Cup.
[via The Big Story]
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