x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Honda says Japan are out for victory

Keisuke Honda, the Japan midfielder, says his team will not be at the World Cup to make up the numbers, declaring: "We're in it to win it."

Keisuke Honda, the Japan midfielder, says his team will not be at the World Cup to make up the numbers, declaring: "We're in it to win it." Takeshi Okada, the coach, has been criticised for publicly saying Japan's target in South Africa was the semi-finals, despite strong evidence pointing to another quick exit. Most Japan players have opted to bite their tongues when asked about Okada's stated goal but Honda was more forthcoming, telling a news conference: "If we don't try to win there's no point being there."

South Korea warmed up for the World Cup with a 2-0 win over Ecuador in Seoul courtesy of second-half strikes from Sung-ryeol Lee and Chung-yong Lee, despite fielding a team made up only of domestic-based players. The friendly marks the start of the final phase of build-up for the Taeguk Warriors, who are next in action against Japan on May 24, before games against Belarus and Spain.

South Africa, the World Cup hosts, beat Thailand 4-0 at Mbombela Stadium yesterday for a morale-boosting win in preparation for the tournament. They scored three goals in 11 first-half minutes to mark the first match at the new venue in the northern city of Nelspruit. Carlos Alberto Parreira's Bafana Bafana outplayed a Thailand team, managed by Bryan Robson, the former England captain.