Keisuke Honda claimed Japanese supporters “took it easy” on Japan after they were held to a scoreless draw at home by Singapore.
In Japan’s first qualifying match on the road to Russia 2018, Honda and Co. were unable to break down Singapore’s defence at Saitama Stadium north of Tokyo, with visiting goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud making 18 saves.
With Singapore ranked 102 spots lower than Japan, who are 52nd in the world according to FIFA, Honda reckons the local fans were justified in booing him and his team-mates.
“The result was what it was, so there’s nothing we can do about it [the booing],” Honda said, according to the Japan Times.
“If anything, I think they took it easy on us.
“There were two aspects to the game. One is that we needed someone to make the individual difference and score, but also we weren’t given easy shots and the opposition did very well. I think it was a combination of both.
“Of course it’s a shock but we have to get over it. We’ve just started [the qualifying campaign], and this has reminded us how hard the World Cup qualifiers are.”
Izwan, who plays club football for Lions XII in the Malaysian Super League, declared: “It’s a miracle.
“I was watching them on TV – Honda, [Shinji] Kagawa – admiring them, and to be in the tunnel with them was a big honour for me. It’s a miracle for Singapore to draw. We put in the hard work, teamwork, and we were disciplined.”
Singapore coach Bernd Stange hailed his team’s disciplined performance, which took the island nation to the top of Group E’s standings with four points, one ahead of Syria and Afghanistan.
“I believe that Japan played an excellent attacking game over 90 minutes,” he said.
“But we tried to keep the ball without any silly, needless fouls. We didn’t even have a yellow card.
“What do you expect from a team ranking 154 in the world? That we play attacking football and we lose 4-0? No, we did what we can do, and that’s why I can be really proud of my team.”