Japan picked up their first comprehensive win of Javier Aguirre’s reign on Friday night, and after the 6-0 win over Honduras I spoke to some of the experienced players who contributed to the triumph for The Japan News…
TOYOTA – Javier Aguirre declared the time for testing over when he announced his latest Japan squad, and with familiar faces back in the fold the Samurai Blue clicked smoothly into gear on Friday night.
After just one win in his first four games as Japan boss – and even that coming courtesy of an own goal against Jamaica – the Mexican recalled World Cup stalwarts Makoto Hasebe, Yasuhito Endo, and Atsuto Uchida, and the veterans instantly repaid his faith with instrumental roles in a 6-0 thrashing of Honduras in Toyota.
Hasebe previously trained under Aguirre in September but had to pull out of that month’s friendlies against Uruguay and Venezuela with a knee injury. The Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder was back in possession of the captain’s armband against Honduras though, and delighted with the way his return panned out.
“We scored an early goal and although the opponents occasionally threatened too we set the rhythm and when attacking were able to get into good positions a lot,” the 30-year-old said. “Having said that, it’s just one game and we have to keep going from here.
“I think that against a higher level of opposition, for me personally, I want to play better. There are still aspects that can be improved upon.”
Endo also enjoyed his national team comeback, sending in the corner that led to Maya Yoshida’s opener after nine minutes, then adding to the score himself just before half-time after Keisuke Honda had doubled the lead.
“I was aiming to strike it lower but caught it a bit sweetly,” the Gamba Osaka man said of his rasping effort. “Still, a goal’s a goal and that made it 3-0 which effectively finished the game so I’m glad I was able to convert the decisive strike.”
Japan didn’t stop there though and added a further trio of goals in the second half, Takashi Inui and Yohei Toyoda grabbing their first national team strikes before Inui doubled his tally to wrap things up.
“As a forward you have to convert the chances when they’re there for you,” Sagan Tosu striker Toyoda, who is tied at the top of the J1 scoring charts with 15 goals this year, said.
“Today is big for me but I’m never satisfied and know that even though it’s difficult I have to score more and more goals.”
Aguirre will certainly be demanding more of his troops now that they have shown what they are capable of, and Endo is impressed with his latest boss.
“I think he’s passionate and up until now we haven’t had that type of coach for the national team,” the 34-year-old, playing his 147th game for his fifth permanent Japan coach, said of the former Atletico Madrid tactician. “When he needs to be strict he’s strict – that gives us a good pressure so I think he’s a good coach for Japan.”
Hasebe also appreciates Aguirre’s style. “[He] doesn’t tell us exactly what to do when we’re out on the pitch. He gives us hints of what he wants – ‘something like this’ – but once we’re on the pitch it’s up to us.”
With almost 230 caps between them both players know that the real work starts now, with Australia up next in Osaka on Tuesday then the Asian Cup in January.
“Of course we are expected to win games like today and building confidence depends on getting wins,” Endo said. “In the four games so far maybe the team hasn’t been able to record results that they are satisfied with, but hopefully this game can act as a springboard and we can go on to play an even better game against Australia and then take that on into the Asian Cup.”
“I think Australia will present a tougher challenge,” Hasebe added. “Defensively I will have to think more and make sure I connect well with the players around me – that goes for the team as a whole.”