In his 150th Japan game Yasuhito Endo was as reliable and creative as ever, and shows no signs of letting up any time soon… (日本語版はこちらです)
The day before making his 150th appearance for Japan Yasuhito Endo told journalists that he’d always believed he was still capable of performing for his country – even when he was left out of Javier Aguirre’s initial squads – and on Friday night in Newcastle he showcased just what he can still bring to the Samurai Blue fold.
Efficient in possession and ensuring he was always in the right place at the right time, the Gamba Osaka veteran’s 64 minutes on the pitch coincided with Japan’s period of dominance.
His direct opponent, Yaser Kasim, was thoroughly impressed with Endo’s contribution and outlined just how the 2014 J.League player of the year exerts his influence on the game.
“He’s got the experience to be away from the ball – If the ball’s on one side of the pitch – and come into the play two or three passes later. Their right-back could have it and he’ll be connecting with the left winger. They’ll play one or two passes down one side and they’ll suddenly find him. It’s that bit of experience – that bit of experience also to control the game, take the sting out of it.
“He’s a classic thinking midfielder. He gets on the ball and keeps it.”
Iraq’s gradual improvement in the second half may have been in part down to the fact that the pace of the game was catching up with Endo – who turns 35 three days before the final – but Kasim doesn’t think that age is a factor for too much concern.
“I’m sure his age is 35 but he’s got such an experienced head that he knows when to make the runs, he knows when to control the game, and when you have a philosophy like Japan’s you can play in that system.
“Maybe he can play for a couple of more years, I don’t know. Within that philosophy if you train yourself the right way you can do very well.”
Keisuke Honda also suggested that the end of Endo’s national team career could still be some way in the future.
“Of course everybody has the chance to play at the next World Cup,” he said. “We also have many young players but I know he will keep a high performance, so we have good competition now.”
As for the achievement of a century-and-a-half of games for his country, Honda expressed awe.
“150 is amazing. I don’t know [what his secret is], I want to ask him. I just would say congratulations to him. He gave the Japanese people a lot of dreams and hopes. Many positive things. He’s an amazing player and I hope he will play well in 2015 too.”
Eiji Kawashima echoed those sentiments. “This is unbelievable, that he has played 150 games. His character is natural and always he prefers to just play football. But for Japanese football these kind of players can keep [having a positive influence] so I want to give him a lot of compliments, and also I’m happy that we can play with him.”
As for how the rest of the team reacted to their teammates’ milestone, Kawashima suggested that Endo deserves a place alongside the true greats of the Japanese game.
“We talked about that before the game. We saw the numbers, how many games we have played, and this 150 is an incredible number so he must be a legend.”