Japan’s Keisuke Honda demands young players step up for World Cup qualifier against Thailand

Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda has berated his younger team mates after their shock loss to United Arab Emirates.

By: Reuters | Tokyo | Published:September 4, 2016 12:27 pm
Keisuke Honda, Keisuke Honda Japan, Keisuke Honda midfielder, Keisuke Honda Japan world cup qualifier, Keisuke Honda Thailand vs Japan, japan, Thailand, world cup qualifiers, football, football news, sports, sports news A surprising number of players watch and read the news so they know what I say, says Keisuke Honda. (Source: AP)

Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda has berated his younger team mates after their shock loss to United Arab Emirates and demanded more effort from them in their next World Cup qualifier against Thailand on Tuesday.

A profligate Japan lost 2-1 at home to 74th-ranked UAE in their Group B opener on Thursday and defeat in Bangkok would be another serious setback to their hopes of advancing from a section that includes heavyweights Australia and Saudi Arabia.

“A surprising number of players watch and read the news so they know what I say,” Honda, who scored his team’s only goal against UAE, told Japanese media after training in Bangkok.

“I don’t think they are going to change straight away, but maybe become aware of the fact that they have to make more of an effort.

“I want to give them the opportunity to change their mindset. I have to pull the team forward when it needs pulling, and it’s not just me. There are a number of experienced players on this team that feel the same way.

“The young players can’t expect others to lead the team and I am sure they are starting to understand that. Everyone has to stand up and be counted. That is what the Japan national team is all about.”

Thailand, ranked 120th in the world, have enjoyed an impressive run to the final phase of Asian qualifying and gave a good account of themselves in a 1-0 defeat to Saudi Arabia in Riyadh.

AC Milan midfielder Honda said Japan, ranked 49th in the world, would need to go “all out” with the intention of winning the rest of their qualifiers.

“We have to go into the next game with confidence and with a positive mind-set,” the bleach-blond 30-year-old said in comments published by Kyodo news agency.

“There is pressure right from the start (of the qualifiers) but we have experienced even higher-pressure situations than this before and we have to face it head-on.”

Australia, who beat Iraq at home on Thursday, lead Group B on goal difference from UAE and Saudi Arabia.
The two top teams in the group qualify automatically for Russia with the third-placed team entering a playoff.