Keisuke Honda insists that he was always confident stepping up to take the penalty that saw Japan qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The playmaker’s 91st-minute spot-kick sealed a 1-1 draw with Australia that sees the Asian side become the first team to secure their spot in the tournament, qualifying them for the third edition in a row.
Thomas Oar had netted for the visitors in the 82nd minute to put the Aussies on course for a crucial win, and Honda admitted that he was nervous before dispatching the effort from 12 yards to seal his side’s place in Brazil.
“I felt the pressure but I took the penalty full of confidence, and I made it,” the CSKA Moscow man told FIFA.com.
“I had some personal emotion then… But apart from my personal feeling, that goal took Japan to the World Cup, and I’m satisfied with that.
“We dominated the match but could not score the first goal when we had chances.
“Australia were trying to score the goal from their counter-attacks – we had difficulties with them a few times – but both teams had good chances in this match.
“We conceded Australia’s first goal in that way, and the game became more difficult, but we did not give up till the end and we finally got this result.”
Japan will line up in Group A against Brazil, Italy and Japan in the upcoming Confederations Cup tournament, which acts as a warm-up for the World Cup in South America.
And despite being expected to struggle in a tough group, Honda believes that the experience in the Japan squad will help them in 2013 and beyond, into next year’s tournament.
He added: “Now that so many Japanese players are playing in European leagues, some of them are playing for big clubs.
“Those players have shown what they have learned through European league experiences on the pitch for the national team. That’s been shown in our latest results.
“For us, giant-killing, that’s it. Everybody expects us to be the weakest in the group, but we’re going to surprise them all.”
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