Javier Aguirre led Japan to a dominant 6-0 victory against fellow World Cup dropouts Honduras, as preparations continue in the lead up to the 2015 AFC Asian Cup. Following a series of disappointing results and some questions raised over his squad selections, Aguirre has presented a strong case for his doubters to remain positive.
Keisuke Honda carried his incredible form with Italian club side AC Milan to Toyota Stadium and put on a show for the 42,126 Japanese fans, scoring a goal and making threatening runs behind the defence, while Shinji Kagawa showed his change of clubs in the off-season and some much sought-after fitness would help lift his national team performances.
Southampton’s Maya Yoshida gave Japan an early lead, following up Masato Morishige’s missed header, and the Samurai Blue continued their positive first half performance by keeping Honduras attacks outside of the penalty area.
As the half wore on, Japan’s confidence began growing with their possession and Honduras eventually broke, allowing Honda to be launched on a counter attack behind the defence to score Japan’s second in the 40th minute. National team veteran Yasuhito Endo scored before half time with a shot from outside of the box that hit the top of the net, catching out an unsighted Donis Escober in goals.
Half-time substitute Takashi Inui made an immediate impact, receiving a lofted ball from Honda and volleying past Escober to quickly set the tone for the second half. A scare for the Japanese fans came minutes later when Yoshida clashed with goalkeeper and teammate Eiji Kawashima and came off worse for wear, but Yoshida was able to return to the pitch to a round of applause after some treatment.
Yohei Toyoda came off the bench to become the next impact substitute, finding himself unmarked and pouncing to score the fifth for Japan after Kagawa was bullied off the ball by the Honduras defence. Endo walked off the pitch to a round of applause after being replaced by rising star Gaku Shibasaki, who has already been labelled “World Class” by his national team coach.
The Honduras defence showed their loss of focus six minutes later, when they merely watched on as an unmarked Inui slotted the loose ball past a helpless Escober. The Honduran goalkeeper later tipped over a powerful Honda free kick to round off a performance that was made to look much worse by his side’s defence.
The win also marked Japan’s second clean sheet since their disappointing World Cup, with the first coming in their only other win – a 1-0 victory against Jamaica last month.
Japan’s next Kirin Challenge Cup match comes this Tuesday, when they face 2015 AFC Asian Cup hosts Australia at Nagai Stadium in Osaka.