Tuesday June 10 2014
High hopes for Honda

Keisuke Honda may have endured a difficult six months with Milan, but Sam Lewis writes that he is still central to Japan’s World Cup hopes.

“Anything can happen at a World Cup. We're good enough now to reach the quarter-finals,” Keisuke Honda has told Japanese Press in the build-up to this summer’s competition in Brazil.

“Obviously, we all need to stay fit, but if we do the basics right - 100 per cent, no mistakes - we can get to the quarter-finals. From there, we can make miracles happen.”

After a surreal and often disappointing first six months in Italy, the Milan playmaker is clearly keen to get underway at a World Cup that could well define his career.

It’s been a whirlwind 2014 for Honda. The Japanese creative midfielder, nicknamed ‘Emperor Keisuke’ in his home country, earned his dream move to the Rossoneri in January, but a six-month period of poor form and boardroom politics at the club has since dampened enthusiasm.

Honda arrived with much fanfare as the much-needed injection of creativity and wit that the Rossoneri attack that appeared often so stagnant under Massimiliano Allegri needed.

Given the famous No 10 jersey, donned previously by the likes of Manuel Rui Costa and Ruud Gullit, Honda made his first appearance for Milan against Sassuolo, offering brief sparks in a loss that cost Honda’s new Coach his job. His new Coach, Clarence Seedorf, was another previous owner of the shirt now worn by the Asian playmaker.

As Allegri’s replacement, one of Seedorf’s main objectives was to integrate a system that made the most of the plethora of attacking players at the Rossoneri’s disposal, including Honda.

However, the Dutchman opted to play his newest player wide on the right rather than in the role behind the striker that Honda had flourished for both his national team and former club, Russian side CSKA Moscow. Often seen lost on the wing and not naturally blessed the pace that the position usually requires, the 27-year-old struggled to make an impact.

Now in Brazil preparing for the World Cup with Japan, Honda will no doubt be hoping to put a disappointing spring behind him and hope that a successful World Cup can kick-start the next phase of his career.

The Asian giants, in an interesting twist, are coached by former Milan boss Alberto Zaccheroni, whose belief in Honda’s talents remains absolute.

“You have to have patience. Even Platini and Zidane took six months to adapt to Italian football,” the former Udinese tactician remarked.

While not on the level of the Juventus heroes Zaccheroni referenced, Honda will no doubt benefit from the confidence of Zaccheroni, who will quite literally be making the attacker central to Japan’s tactics at the finals.

With a talented side featuring fellow Serie A resident Yuto Nagatomo and Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa, the Samurai Blue have real hopes of making a splash in Brazil.

In a tough but winnable group alongside the Radamel Falcao-less Colombia, Euro 2004 champions Greece and the Didier Drogba-led Ivory Coast, Honda’s Japan have no reason to think they can’t progress through to at least the knock-out stages of this summer’s tournament.

As Honda’s club Milan announce their third new Coach in six months in the form of Pippo Inzaghi, a summer for the talented playmaker to prove his worth to his employers and ‘make miracles happen’ could be the all the opportunity he needs.

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
For Honda to get a game next season, milan need to dispose of kaka, and to be honest that would not be a great loss
on the 12th June, 2014 at 12:29pm
@ Viktor but what do milan propose doing with niang, tarabat, brsa, SES etc? Are milan now playing 4-3-3? Then what are we going to do with Saponara and kaka? What are we going to do with balo, pazzo and matri? And forget about integrating mastour and petagna. It'll be another summer where I'll likely greet each signing (and I'm sure they'll be many unnecessary signings) with a grimace.
on the 12th June, 2014 at 8:26am
@Maldini's Heir

I agree with with free players as you mentioned however menez is a winger not a striker? Fast as hell too.. him and ses on each side would be great no?
on the 11th June, 2014 at 4:01pm
@ mm Honda is a victim of Milan's shocking transfer policy. Milan should never have signed both Kaka and Honda but we signed them because they were free. Now apparently we're linked with Menez. Another attacker. Why? Because he's free. We don't sign players we need, we sign players who are free. And still Galliani keeps his job.
on the 11th June, 2014 at 8:13am
Well said maldini heir. I think tactics go out the window when inexperienced ex-players are put on the benches of italy' most feared teams. Seedorf and inzaghi wouldv been excellent future managers- tassotti is constantly over looked yet in my opinion hed be the best man having worked under the greats as a assistant! Id milan to cash in on honda I dont think hes been as productive as expected. He forces milans formation to change as he just adds to the list of needles players we brought in.
on the 10th June, 2014 at 6:46pm
I hope we don't come up against Japan, just saying...
on the 10th June, 2014 at 5:54pm
Emperor Honda will surprise many, and soon he will lead Milan to some good trophies!
on the 10th June, 2014 at 4:05pm
I really hope he does well at the World Cup. If he and the other Milan players show what they can do then it'll prove that their talents are being wasted by poor managers. I also don't think Serie A can use the excuse that its tactically or physically superior to other leagues when its languishing in fifth place in the co-efficients behind Portugal. If players are performing outside of Serie A it points to problems in the training and tactics in Serie A. Good luck Honda show them what you can do
on the 10th June, 2014 at 2:44pm

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