Russia-based playmaker Keisuke Honda has hit back at Japan's critics following four defeats in the build up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, insisting the Blue Samurai "have nothing to lose" at the tournament.
Japan, and coach Takeshi Okada, have been under increasing pressure following Friday's 2-0 loss to Côte d'Ivoire, on the back of a 2-1 loss to England and earlier defeats by second-string sides from Serbia and Korea Republic at home.
However, the 23-year-old CSKA Moscow midfielder fired a determined message ahead of Japan's Group E opener against Cameroon a week today. "You think we're going to lose three straight group matches, don't you?" Honda asked Japanese media. "If we play thinking we have nothing to lose, it would do us good."
Honda, who turns 24 on the eve of Japan's opener in Bloemfontein, helped CSKA reach the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League last season after moving from Dutch side VVV Venlo in January.
If we play thinking we have nothing to lose, it would do us good.
"If we attack the opponents where it hurts them most, it will lead to scoring chances," added Honda, who is making his FIFA World Cup™ debut. "We want to give all we have as this event takes place just once in four years."
But following the defeats, Japan, who also face the Netherlands and Denmark in Group E, are planning an extra warm-up match before the 14 June opener, with Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and even Madagascar being mentioned as possible last-minute opponents.
"We have asked for a practice game and I think it will be okay," said coach Okada. "We are looking at playing a national side. If that can't happen we will look at some local team."
Japan have only reached the knockout stages once after qualifying for the last three finals and have never won a FIFA World Cup™ game on foreign soil. The Blue Samurai failed to advance past the group stage of the FIFA World Cup™ finals in Germany after picking up just one point from three games. Four years earlier, on home soil, Japan reached the Round of 16 before losing to Turkey. They lost all three games of their debut appearance in 1998, under current coach Okada.