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Tuesday, 24th April 2012
In Japan Sports News, Sports,

Honda returns for Japan friendly with Azerbaijan

Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni has revealed he could recall Keisuke Honda to the squad for next month's friendly with Azerbaijan.

The Japan Football Association announced this week that a friendly against the European side would take place on May 23rd ahead of the final World Cup qualifying matches.

With the Blue Samurai drawn against Oman, Australia, Jordan and Iraq in the last round, Zaccheroni was keen for a game against lower opposition to put his stars through their paces.

His side have not played since a surprise home defeat to Uzbekistan in the last qualifying match of the penultimate round, and Azerbaijan are considered the ideal team to warm up against.

The match at the Ecopa Stadium in Shizuoka Prefecture will come less than two weeks before Japan kick off their push for World Cup qualification with a home tie against Oman in Saitama.

Five days later Japan will play Jordan, before travelling to Australia for what will undoubtedly be the toughest test of the group.

With the crunch run-in rapidly approaching, Zaccheroni is facing a race against time to get Honda back into the fold after missing eight months of international games.

The friendly would be a big test for the 25-year-old CSKA Moscow midfielder, who only recently overcame a leg injury to face Dinamo Moscow.

Speaking to reporters, the coach from Italy said: "Honda is an incredibly important player for the national team, and to get him ready for June we want to support him as much as possible," Goal.com quoted.

"Seeing him play for 90 minutes [against Dinamo] was a good opportunity to see his condition. If he keeps practicing, we'll be able to use him against Azerbaijan."

Honda scored the winning goal for Japan against Cameroon in the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa and his presence in the side could be pivotal to their qualification ambitions.

Written by Graham McPherson



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