Japan soccer engine to rely on Honda

Keisuke Honda is lethal on free kicks, having bent one in against Denmark in Japan's 3-1...

Keisuke Honda is lethal on free kicks, having bent one in against Denmark in Japan's 3-1 first-round victory. (REUTERS/Toru Hanai)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:46 PM ET

JOHANNESBURG -- They are about to boldly go where no Japanese or Paraguayan cleats have gone before.

Never in the history of the World Cup has a team from Japan or Paraguay ever competed in a quarter-final game of soccer's most prestigious tournament.

But that will change at South Africa 2010, with the winner of Tuesday's Paraguay-Japan Round of 16 contest at Pretoria's Loftus Versfeld Stadium advancing to a date in the World Cup's final eight.

And, for one-time beleaguered Japanese coach Takeshi Okada, nothing would be sweeter.

Just five weeks ago, Okada offered his resignation to the powers that be after Japan dropped a 2-0 game to rival South Korea on May 24, the team's final home contest before the World Cup.

Good thing the suits running the team didn't accept it.

Ripped and shredded by media and fans alike not so long ago, Okada has found a way to turn the ship around, thanks to a style of play that made Japan one of the more dynamic sides in the opening round of play.

Having said that, Okada's squad will be up against a stingy Paraguayan defence that smothered opponents the past two outings, recording shutouts in both.

"All South American teams are not necessarily the same, but Paraguay have a very similar game to Chile," Okada said. "They've got a very solid back line, they push forward in numbers and switch quickly from defence to attack."

Okada will be relying heavily on Keisuke Honda, one of the top players in the tournament to this point. Honda is especially lethal on free kicks, having bent one in against Denmark in Japan's 3-1 first-round victory that allowed it to reach this point.

In a tournament dominated by South American teams, Honda will have to carry a significant amount of the load for Japan. Should he find a way to do that, Japan might be primed for an upset special.


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