Tuesday, January 25, 2011

All aboard the K-Train?

He's one of the most in-demand players in Europe, plays as an attacking talent for Japan and proved decisive in their 3-2 quarter-final win over hosts Qatar at the Asian Cup.

And his name is not Keisuke Honda.

Japan relied heavily on Borussia Dortmund star Shinji Kagawa to see off the stubborn Qataris in a pulsating quarter-final, as the diminutive playmaker scored twice and set up the winner for Masahiko Inoha in a come-from-behind victory.

The Samurai Blue were forced to dig deep after defender Maya Yoshida was harshly dismissed in front of a partisan Qatari crowd, and Kagawa proved the difference in a virtuoso display.

But while the youngster was impressing in front of a global audience, what of Keisuke Honda, the player allegedly being chased by a host of English Premier League clubs?

Honda has had a quiet tournament to date, missing the group stage thrashing of Saudi Arabia through injury amid rumours he had fallen out with new coach Alberto Zaccheroni.

And having only scored once in the tournament so far - and that goal arrived from the penalty spot - Honda will be desperate to fire his team past arch-rivals South Korea and into the final.

Honda steps up to the penalty spot
Japan's semi-final clash with South Korea is one of the most anticipated games of the tournament, with the winner set to meet either Australia or Uzbekistan in the final.

The Samurai Blue met South Korea three times in 2010, losing twice and drawing once, and they'll be desperate to reach their first Asian Cup final since winning the tournament in Beijing in 2004.

Japan fans will no doubt hope CSKA Moscow star Honda can use some of his big-match experience to steer his side into the showpiece event, but it will be a far from simple task against a fired-up South Korea.

With Park Ji-Sung enjoying an outstanding tournament for the Taeguk Warriors, only one will be left standing as two of Asian football's biggest names go head-to-head in an Asian Cup semi-final cracker.

Copyright © Mike Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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