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Honda believes Japan can still find way to next stage

by Gus Fielding

Kyodo

Keisuke Honda says that the results so far of Asian teams at the World Cup are a simple reflection of how far they are lagging behind the global elite in terms of ability, but the AC Milan midfielder still believes a miracle will send Japan through to the knockout phase of the competition.

Having only taken a point from two games so far after a 2-1 defeat to Cote d’Ivoire and a 0-0 draw against 10-man Greece, Japan is on the brink of elimination going into its final Group C game on Tuesday against Colombia in Cuiaba.

Not only do the Asian champions need to beat the South Americans, who have already booked their place in the last 16, they also need a favorable outcome from the other Group C match between Cote d’Ivoire (three points) and Greece (one).

But Honda, who left himself open to ridicule before the tournament with the bold statement that Japan had the potential to go all the way and win the World Cup, told reporters on Sunday: “Of course there is still a possibility (of advancing to the next round).

“We can’t qualify now without relying on external forces but I believe in miracles and I am focused on us beating Colombia.

“It’s not like there is zero chance, that we can’t achieve what I have already said we can achieve. It’s because I have that belief that I am giving it my best shot.

“If we win then maybe Greece can win. Miracles are miracles and all I can do is believe. We won’t give up until the very last minute.”

Honda was speaking to reporters at the team’s training camp shortly after South Korea was beaten 4-2 by Algeria. That result left Asian teams with five defeats and three draws in eight games so far.

“I feel it simply comes down to ability,” Honda, who did not offer any advice on how to remedy the situation, said when asked why he thought Asian teams had yet to register a win.

“This is a tournament where you are judged on your results and no wins means the level of the team and the players is not good enough, including Japan.”

Honda, who was the star of the Japan team that reached the round of 16 for the first time on foreign soil in South Africa in 2010, said he expected Colombia, which has six points from two games, to play a similar game to Cote d’Ivoire on Tuesday.

“Colombia will be similar to Cote d’Ivoire in that they are good individually in attack and we can’t drop off like we did against them. We have to make use of what we have learned.

“It’s important to look anew at where we went wrong and prepare accordingly but nobody expected what has happened in these past two games and the unexpected could happen in the next game too.”

Japan TV ratings dip

KYODO

The television viewer rating for Japan’s World Cup match Friday against Greece in greater Tokyo was the lowest since Japan’s 1998 debut in the tournament, apparently due to the live broadcast taking place during morning commuting hours.

The average rating of the group-stage match aired by Nippon Television stood at 33.6 percent in the Kanto region centered on Tokyo, and 33.1 percent in the Kansai region centered on Osaka, ratings agency Video Research Ltd. said Monday.

The rating during the match, which finished in a 0-0 draw, peaked at 43.3 percent in Kanto and 42.9 percent in Kansai, both during the first half.

The previous low through all five World Cup matches Japan has participated in since 1998 was 37.2 percent, logged in 2006 in a game with Brazil.

Japan’s June 15 match against Cote d’Ivoire, its first at this year’s tournament, logged an average rating of 42.6 percent for the first half and 46.6 percent for the second half in Kanto.

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