Football: Japan can reach World Cup quarters, says Honda

Football: Japan can reach World Cup quarters, says Honda

TOKYO - Japan's talisman Keisuke Honda has predicted the Asian champions will produce a "miracle" at the World Cup and reach the quarter-finals, local media reported on Monday.

Sporting a spiky mohawk haircut, the bleached-blond Honda touched down in Brazil with the Japan squad at the weekend and declared the 'Blue Samurai' were ready to take on the world.

"Firstly, we can 100 percent get through our group," Honda told Japan's Nikkan Sports daily, ahead of Japan's opening game against Ivory Coast on June 14.

"After that anything can happen at a World Cup. We're good enough now to reach the quarter-finals," added the AC Milan midfielder.

"Obviously we all need to stay fit but if we do the basics right 100 percent, no mistakes, we can get to the quarter-finals. From there we can make miracles happen." Japan, who also face Greece and Colombia in Group C, underwent intense warm-weather training in southern Japan and Florida before flying to Brazil.

"I'm not talking idealistically, I'm being realistic," said Honda. "That's where the past 10 days of training will pay off."

Japan, however, have looked far from World Cup quarter-final material in warm-up wins over Cyprus, Costa Rica and Zambia.

Their best World Cup performances to date were reaching the last 16 as co-hosts with South Korea in 2002 and again four years ago in South Africa.

But Honda, who scored twice in Japan's 4-3 win over Zambia in Florida on Friday, remained defiant.

"Do you believe in miracles or do you make them happen," said the 27-year-old.

"If we only believe in miracles and that basis disappears, it will be difficult to get through our group."

Should Japan negotiate their group, a likely meeting with either Italy, England or Uruguay from Group D awaits in the last 16.

Japan stormed through Asian qualifying to secure a fifth successive World Cup appearance.

But Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni did not mince his words after his side surrendered three goals against Zambia, fuming: "We can't carry on like this."

Japan also conceded first in a 3-1 win over Costa Rica in Tampa and hardly set pulses racing in a 1-0 victory over Cyprus in their final home tune-up on May 27.


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