Japan showed what they’re made of in a great encounter against the Netherlands where they rallied back to end up drawing against one of the best teams in the world.
The Dutch side were the early favorites to win the game and they got a two-goal lead before the 40th-minute mark thanks to Rafael van der Vaart and Arjen Robben, but the Japanese side pulled a spectacular comeback in the second half.
Yuka Osako and Keisuke Honda were the ones scoring for the Asian Champions and they not only were able to rally back, they also played a solid game against one of the early favorites to win the World Cup next year.
Japan has a strong crew in place as they mix both experience and youth and also have several players featuring regularly in Europe’s best leagues. The undisputed star is CSKA Moscow’s playmaker Keisuke Honda, but he’s surrounded by a strong supporting cast headlined by Mainz’s Shinji Okazaki, Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa and Yuto Nagatomo, who plays for Inter Milan.
Their recent call-up includes 12 players who feature in European leagues; quite an accomplishment considering that only a few years ago there were no more than five playing outside the local league. Their evolution has been steady and it’s likely ahead of schedule as they’re one of the best teams in Asia, and when they’re on their game, they can surprise and upset any team.
They already did it against Italy in the Confederations’ Cup earlier this year, and now they were close to pulling the upset against the Netherlands. If they play like this next year in Brazil, they could achieve great things in the tournament.