Ousted Honda rel­ish­ing fight for place in Ja­pan

New Straits Times - - Sport -

TOKYO: Ja­pan mid­fielder Keisuke Honda has vowed to win back his start­ing place in the na­tional side af­ter a lack of play­ing time at AC Milan saw him lose his spot to the in-form Yuya Kubo.

Gent mid­fielder Kubo started on the right wing in Thurs­day’s World Cup qual­i­fier against the United Arab Emi­rates and put on an ac­com­plished dis­play in win­ning his third cap, scor­ing the first and as­sist­ing on the sec­ond in a 2-0 vic­tory at Al Ain.

Honda said the com­pe­ti­tion for places proved how strong the Ja­pan team is.

“This is what foot­ball is about, there’s noth­ing weird about it,” Honda was quoted as say­ing by Ky­odo News on Sun­day. “This is just about me hav­ing lost my place in the first team here and back in Milan – which hasn’t hap­pened be­fore.

“But it hap­pens and says how com­pet­i­tive things are on the na­tional team now. If I come and win the job back, it’ll make us even bet­ter.”

Honda, who has barely fea­tured for Milan this sea­son, came off the bench for a 12 minute cameo and is likely to be a sub­sti­tute again to­mor­row when sec­ond-placed Ja­pan host Thai­land, who are last in Group B, at Saitama Stadium.

“I think ev­ery­one wants to know how I’ll play if I set foot on the pitch right now,” Honda added. “That’s what it comes down to. If I can show that I can still play, that I can score, then peo­ple will have an idea of what I can do and the op­por­tu­ni­ties will in­crease for me.”

Ja­pan are three points clear of third-placed Aus­tralia in the race for two au­to­matic qual­i­fy­ing spots from their pool with four rounds re­main­ing. Reuters

Ja­pan’s Keisuke Honda

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