2010 FIFA World Cup™ hero Keisuke Honda has led Japan to yet another milestone after scoring their 1,000th international goal.
The CSKA Moscow midfielder claimed the honour when he slotted home the winner from the penalty spot during his side's 2-1 win over Syria, a result which moved Japan closer to an AFC Asian Cup quarter-final spot. "It was a little bit shaky but I was relieved it went through," said the 24-year-old. "The result was alright."
The goal came only six minutes after Syria had equalised from a penalty awarded after Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima had been red-carded for bringing down a Syrian player who had been flagged offside. Japan's first international goal was scored by Ryuzo Shimizu in 1923 in Osaka, when they lost 2-1 to the Philippines at the Far East championships.
"We must win the next match," said Honda, ahead of their final group match on Monday against fellow three-time champions Saudi Arabia, who crashed out of contention with two straight losses. "The Saudis are stronger than Syria or Jordan. We want to out-fight them, but it is going to be close."
Honda has been heralded as the future of Japanese football by the domestic media for his eye-catching achievements since moving to VVV Venlo from J-League Nagoya Grampus in 2008. After two successful years in Holland, where he was hailed 'Kaiser Keisuke', he joined the Moscow side a year ago.
With a goal and an assist, Honda helped CSKA to a 3-2 aggregate victory over Sevilla in the UEFA Champions League, becoming the first Japanese player to reach the quarter-finals of Europe's premier club tournament.
He scored in the 1-0 upset of Cameroon in South Africa in June for Japan's first World Cup win on foreign soil. His left-foot free kick also produced the opening goal in the 3-1 rout of Denmark which fired Japan into the last 16 of the World Cup for the first time on foreign soil.
Japan Football Association president Junji Ogura said the 1,000th goal should be feted as part of his organisation's 90th anniversary celebrations this year. "It is a good idea to display his boots at our Japan Football Museum," he said. "Maybe he knew it would be the 1,000th goal all along."