MUSCAT – Keisuke Honda has issued Japan with a must-do-better report despite a 3-0 win over Syria in a key 2018 World Cup qualifier in neutral Oman on Thursday night.
Japan struggled to break down Syria in the first half, but Honda put his team ahead with a 55th-minute penalty, Shinji Okazaki added a second and substitute Takashi Usami completed a comfortable win in the late stages.
The result saw Japan seize top spot in second-round Group E of Asian qualifying with 10 points from four games, one ahead of Syria.
“In attack we are not quite there yet,” said Honda. “Looking at the flow of the game we should have scored more. We had plenty of chances to.”
“We lacked power and precision,” said the outspoken AC Milan attacker.
Captain Makoto Hasebe also felt Japan could not be completely satisfied with the win.
“It was good that we came out 3-0 winners in a tough game,” said Hasebe. “We had to make adjustments at halftime so we can’t be satisfied.”
Okazaki moved closer to a half-century for Japan with his 47th international goal, drilling home from close range after good work on the left flank by Shinji Kagawa.
“It was tough in the first half but (the quality of) our opponents movement dropped and we were able to play our game,” said the Leicester City striker.
“Shinji (Kagawa) broke through the defense on his own so half of our second goal is his.”
Southampton defender Maya Yoshida echoed Okazaki’s comments.
“We had a few difficulties in the first half, but (Syria) dropped off in the second and we had some good spells,” he said. “It is a big deal that we beat the team that were top of the table.”
Usami wrapped up the win with his first goal in a World Cup qualifier, sweeping home after a good move involving Hiroshi Kiyotake and Honda.
“The move started with a super pass from Kiyo-kun (Kiyotake) and Keisuke-kun (Honda) set me up nicely. I’m thankful to my teammates,” said Usami.
Japan plays Iran away in a friendly on Tuesday before its next World Cup qualifier away to Singapore in November.
“They (Iran) are a much stronger team (than Syria) and are better than us,” said Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic. “I’ve hear there will be a crowd of 80,000. It will be a completely different game.”
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