Japan will go in to tonight’s (Wednesday morning Japan time) game against Belgium in a positive frame of mind following a vastly improved display against Holland that saw them come back from two goals down to earn a creditable draw.

After lackluster defeats to Serbia (2-0) and Belarus (1-0) in October, Alberto Zacherroni’s men needed a strong performance against the Dutch and they didn’t disappoint, particularly in the second half following the introduction of Yasuhito Endo and Shinji Kagawa. The latter was particularly impressive, with a 100% pass completion rate, opening the Dutch up on numerous occasions.

When Kagawa and Honda are in the mood they have the ability to trouble any defence in the world, while Shinji Okazaki’s work rate compliments them superbly. Zacherroni will have also been pleased with the performance of striker Yuya Osako, who took his goal extremely well and was a nuisance throughout the game.

Honda’s equalizer was a joy to watch and richly deserved. Japan played some lovely football at times, yet despite dominating they couldn’t find a winner. They still lack a killer instinct in front of goal, while defensive frailties remain a concern. Tonight’s game against Belgium will be another big test. Ranked number five by FIFA, they boast many high-profile players such as Edin Hazard and Romelu Lukaku and are considered potential dark-horses for next year’s World Cup. They were defeated by Colombia on Friday and will, therefore, be looking to bounce back tonight. Two excellent footballing sides, it should be one of the games to watch this week and will be a good indicator of how both are progressing as the big tournament in Brazil draws ever nearer.

By Matthew Hernon

Image: Wikimedia Commons