The Japan national team were all smiles on Friday following their 6-0 demolition of visiting Jordan at a sold-out Saitama Stadium.
Much like their 3-0 win over Oman on Sunday, the hosts jumped out to an early lead and conceded little ground against another overwhelmed West Asian club.
Beginning with Ryoichi Maeda’s 18th-minute header, four players scored for Japan as they jumped out to a five-point lead over their nearest competitors in AFC World Cup qualifying Group B.
“I asked the team to play with more accuracy than they did against Oman, and they delivered,” coach Alberto Zaccheroni said after the match.
“Jordan are intent on reaching the World Cup, but we’re also looking to get one of our group’s two tickets.
“Today’s result was proof that Japan is enthusiastic about reaching Brazil. Now we have to focus on Australia.”
The night’s star was clearly Keisuke Honda, who dazzled with Japan’s first hat-trick in the final round of World Cup qualifying since Kazuyoshi Miura’s four-goal haul against Uzbekistan in September 1997.
“The goals came from my team-mates’ help,” the CSKA attacker told an appreciative crowd.
“They set up the passes and earned the penalty kick, so I want to thank all of them.
“If we can come out this well against Australia we’ll do fine. I want to play hard and live up to everyone’s expectations.”
Honda’s performance overshadowed even that of Shinji Kagawa, who scored Japan’s fourth goal of the night in his first appearance since the confirmation of his transfer to Manchester United.
“My goal came from their defender’s mistake so I can’t enjoy it too much,” Kagawa said. “I think I can do a lot more.
“Our supporters created a great atmosphere in these two matches and I hope they’ll keep it up.”
The Japan Football Association (JFA) also announced defender Maya Yoshida would withdraw from the squad after sustaining an injury to his right knee in the first half.
“I slipped and my weight was concentrated on my knee,” the VVV Venlo man told reporters.
The JFA has no plans to call up a replacement player for Tuesday’s match in Australia.
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