BRUSSELS – Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda dared the world’s best teams to write them off because mark his words, the Asian champions will make them pay.
“Japan are challengers,” Honda said following training on Sunday, a night after Japan raised a few eyebrows during a 2-2 draw with the 2010 World Cup runnerup the Netherlands in a friendly in Genk.
“If you ask me, let the other teams underestimate us because that will only fuel our fire. Anyone who thinks they can mess with us, we’ll take them out, one by one,” Honda said.
Alberto Zaccheroni’s side will wrap up the year on Tuesday against host Belgium, which is one of eight seeds at next year’s World Cup. Japan and Belgium met in the first round of the 2002 World Cup, drawing 2-2 in Saitama.
Blessed with a golden generation of players like Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Marouane Fellaini of Manchester United, Marc Wilmots’ team has risen to fifth in the world rankings whereas Japan has slipped to 44th due to a recent string of poor performances and results.
With a squad rich in talent, Belgium is seen by some as having an outside shot at winning in Brazil next summer.
Honda, though, remains completely unfazed by the Belgians or the Dutch and is firm in his belief that Japan, too, is good enough to lift the World Cup next year.
“Belgium might be all the rave at the moment, but they’re not a team with history,” the CSKA Moscow man said. “So in that sense, they’re like Japan.
“They play with size up front. If the plan is to play off a target man that will present a different challenge for us from last time.”