Japan's coach Takeshi Okada has said his side have a great chance of beating powerhouse Paraguay on Tuesday to reach the FIFA World Cup™ quarter-finals by counting on Keisuke Honda's goalscoring clout.
"If we play 100 per cent, we will have a sufficient chance of winning," he said on the eve of Tuesday's last-16 match in which the two sides will battle for their first-ever FIFA World Cup quarter-final spot. "My personal goal is not here," said Okada, who has boldly set his target of a semi-final spot in South Africa, a goal which has gained crediblity after Japan's surprise run to the knock-out stage.
"The players also understand it is a rare chance for them to aim for the last-eight spot and I believe they will go out fully motivated," he said. "Nobody knows how far we can go. But we'll keep on moving forward as long as there is a possibility."
Honda, who helped CSKA Moscow reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals after moving from Dutch side Venlo in January, has scored two goals and set up another as underdogs Japan upset Cameroon and Denmark and went down fighting 1-0 to the mighty Dutch.
"I hope Honda will also set up and score goals himself tomorrow," the coach said, adding that the 24-year-old is "physically strong unlike other Japanese, tough on the ball and has technically stable left-foot kicks."
Okada said Paraguay would be doggedly defensive as they were in the group stage where they drew 1-1 with Italy and beat Slovakia 2-0 but were held to a scoreless draw by unfancied New Zealand. "We must be careful against their defence as a whole and their fast attacks which they launch after putting pressure up front," he said
But Japan captain Makoto Hasebe warned Japan would be also strong on the break. "Counter-attacks are our strength. It is one of our weapons," said the Wolfsburg player, who holds Japan's midfield together as Honda plays as a front man with former Mallorca striker Yoshito Okubo and Grenoble midfielder Daisuke Matsui behind him.
The coach has forced his squad to practise set pieces which he said would be crucial in highly competitive matches. Honda and Osaka Gamba midfielder Yasuhito Endo sank spectacular free-kicks in the 3-1 rout of Denmark which led Japan to the FIFA World Cup knock-out stage for the first time on foreign soil. "Scoring direct free kicks will be an awfully big advantage," he said. "I believe it will be a big plus to score on other kinds of set plays."