TOKYO: Japan have become the first nation to qualify for next year’s World Cup finals in Brazil after securing the draw they needed in Asian Group B at home to Australia.
The Japanese will enjoy a preview of the conditions there when they fly to Brazil next week for the Confederations Cup which they will contest as Asian champions.
They fell behind in Saitama to a Tommy Oar goal eight minutes from time but a handball from Matt McKay’s handball gave CSKA Moscow midfielder Keisuke Honda the opportunity to equalise from a penalty.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter was among the first to send the Japanese Football Association a message of congratulations.
However Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa has warned against complacency.
He said: “We want to win on the world stage … Each and every player on this team needs more determination and will power.
“We’ve got a lot of talented players playing their club football overseas now, but we all need to be more assertive when we play forJapan.
“One of our strengths is teamwork, but we can’t win on that alone. We need more personality, character on the team. Teamwork may sound good, but it’s not enough,” he added.
“We need more players to be selfish, more players who want it… like Keisuke Honda. The fact that we haven’t been able to win when Keisuke isn’t around says everything.”
Japan play their final qualifier against Iraq in Doha on Tuesday before flying to Brazil for the Confederations Cup.
The JFA is organizing six World Cup warm-up friendlies for Alberto Zaccheroni’s team between September and November. Japan will host Guatemala on September 6, followed by a game four days later in Yokoham aagainst Ghana. In October they visit Serbia and Belarus before two more matches against opposition yet to be confirmed in November.