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Honda restates World Cup title ambition

by Gus Fielding

Kyodo

AC Milan attacker Keisuke Honda on Saturday reasserted his claim that Japan has the potential to win the World Cup in Brazil, and says he will play as though it is his last appearance in global soccer’s showcase tournament.

The bleach-blond midfielder was the driving force behind Japan’s progression to the round of 16 in South Africa four years ago and he reckons the Samurai Blue can go even further this time and pull off a major upset in Brazil.

Honda has previously gone on record as saying Japan can win the World Cup, and asked by Kyodo News if he still believes the Asian champions have a shot at the title: He said, “Yeah. I am very eager to surprise the world so we just (have to) believe in our style and ourselves. We will see at the World Cup.

“At this moment just we need to progress. I don’t want to look back (over the last four years). I think the most important thing is how we spend time over the next two weeks, how we make a good atmosphere.

“We can do that. We have experienced players who can make it (a good atmosphere) and I am one of them, so I have to do a lot of things in the next two weeks.”

Honda, speaking to reporters at the team’s hotel in Clearwater, Florida ahead of a pair of World Cup warmups in Tampa against Costa Rica and Zambia, did not make clear whether he would retire from the international scene after the World Cup.

But he said, “The World Cup only comes around once every four years and for every player in the squad there is no guarantee that there will be another World Cup. I intend to challenge as though this one is the last for me.”

Japan takes on Costa Rica, which it could potentially meet in the round of 16 in Brazil, on Monday, and Honda says both a good performance and result will be crucial for confidence.

“Everything, the result, how we play. Everything is important for the World Cup and for our confidence.”

Japan, which plays Zambia on June 6, has been grouped with Cote d’Ivoire, Greece and Colombia in Brazil. Costa Rica has been drawn in a very tough group that features Uruguay, Italy and England.