Soccer / World Cup

Honda says Halilhodzic made right call in leaving him on bench

Kyodo

Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda said Friday he had no complaints about being benched for Thursday’s 2-0 World Cup-qualifying win over Australia, but admitted he would have considered quitting the game had it been at the finals.

Young guns Takuma Asano and Yosuke Ideguchi were the stars of Thursday’s win, both getting on the scoresheet to book Japan tickets to a sixth consecutive World Cup with a game to spare.

Speaking at training on Friday before the team leave for its final qualifier away to Saudi Arabia, Honda said, “Today is not about me.

“The most important thing is that we won even without myself and players like (Dortmund midfielder) Shinji (Kagawa) playing and the fact that it has left us with a sense of crisis.

“Obviously there are people who think our services are not required anymore, but conversely I think that is a good thing,” added the bleach-blond 31-year-old.

Honda hardly featured for Serie A giant AC Milan last season and only recently made his debut for Mexican club Pachuca after being sidelined with a right calf injury.

As a result, he has seen less and less playing time with the national team and Thursday’s match was the first time he has seen no minutes in the final round of qualifiers.

“I have not been playing constantly at club level for a long time, so I have to nod (in agreement) at not being picked to play (by Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic),” Honda said.

“If it had been the (World Cup) finals, then I might have considered quitting soccer altogether, but playing at the finals is the main goal and sitting on the bench is just part of that process.

“You need to feel frustration. It makes you work harder, makes you more motivated.”