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Ball control key against Greece: Honda

AFP-JIJI

Japan talisman Keisuke Honda said Monday the side must try to dominate possession if it is to keep its World Cup hopes alive after a defeat in its Group C opener.

Honda gave the Asian champions the lead against Cote d’Ivoire on Saturday but, inspired by Didier Drogba, the Africans hit back with two goals to leave Japan’s tournament hopes in the balance.

Alberto Zaccheroni’s side cannot afford to slip up in Natal on Thursday when it meets Greece, which lost its first match, 3-0 to Colombia.

Honda said that despite its disappointing start, Japan, ranked 46th in the world, could hold its own against its group rival.

“Possession, that is our strength,” said the 28-year-old, who has 57 caps and 23 international goals under his belt. “When we have the ball, we just need to keep the ball and not give it away easily.”

He added: “The last game we lost the ball too easily so that is how we spent a lot of energy in the first half, that is the point. That is why we must concentrate on keeping the ball.”

Despite the pressure, there was a mood of calm on Monday as the players were put through their paces at their sun-bathed training camp outside Sao Paulo.

Honda said despite the disappointment of the defeat, the squad was fit and confident about turning around its fortunes.

“We still have opportunities,” said the attacking midfielder, adding a key element of his role was guiding his less-experienced teammates.

Japan reached the last 16 in South Africa four years ago before losing to Paraguay on penalties.

Honda played a key role in that success, bagging the only goal in Japan’s opener against Cameroon, and scoring a long-range free kick in the victory over Denmark.