MELBOURNE (AFP) – Japan playmaker Keisuke Honda has fired a volley at Asian Cup organisers over the tournament’s punishing schedule, just days after being fined for slamming the standard of refereeing.
Honda scored his third goal in three games in Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Jordan in Melbourne as the holders finished top of Group D and set up a quarter-final against the United Arab Emirates, celebrating with a military salute.
But Japan’s spiky cult hero grumbled that the Blue Samurai would have a day less to prepare for Friday’s game in Sydney than the Emirates.
“Two days is too short a recovery time,” sniffed Honda, fined $5,000 for letting rip at the referee in Japan’s 4-0 win over Palestine earlier in the competition. “I don’t agree with such a tough schedule. It’s too much and it’s a concern.”
Honda had been warned by Japan coach Javier Aguirre to bite his tongue after talking his way into fiscal trouble, but the player has been in sparkling form, taking games against Jordan and Iraq by the scruff of the neck.
“UAE are playing very well,” warned the AC Milan midfielder. “I don’t think they will fear Japan at all. Hopefully we can continue creating as many chances as we have been.”
While Honda’s explosiveness grabs the headlines, the Japanese players mobbed Shinji Kagawa after he broke a goal drought for his country dating back to last June by slamming home the team’s second against Jordan.