Football

Key player: 
Keisuke Honda

If Japan are going to make a first World Cup quarter-final, they will require Keisuke Honda to be firing on all cylinders.

The bleach-blond playmaker is the central figure in coach Alberto Zaccheroni's attacking plans with the Asian champions, who are competing at their fifth successive World Cup since their debut appearance in 1998, confident of improving on their last-16 exit by Paraguay four years ago.

Honda is one of the survivors of the 2010 campaign, when he played as the central striker and scored a long-range free-kick to help the Blue Samurai beat Denmark 3-1 in their final group game to advance to the knockout stages for only the second time.

He also scored a penalty in the shoot-out defeat against Paraguay to further emphasise his set-piece skills in what was a strong tournament for both team and individual.

With the arrival of Italian Zaccheroni as coach, Honda was switched back to playing behind the main striker and given greater influence in matches, which the 27-year-old has enjoyed.

- Reuters.

World Cup